How to Choose the Right Rug

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/27/19 3:31 PM

A good rug makes a decorative statement, it warms up a space and protects the floor underneath. But with so many options out there, how do you know which one to choose? We’ve got you (and your floors) covered with some general guidelines to help narrow your options!

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2019 Kitchen Trends

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/6/19 3:18 PM

2019 Kitchen Trends

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Advice for Managing Credit Cards while Buying a Home

Posted by Emma Johnson on 6/7/17 9:30 AM

When applying for a mortgage, a lender determines how much house you can afford based on your debt to income ratio, not solely your total monthly income. With this in mind, how you manage your debt, specifically credit card payments, is critically important! If a home purchase is on the horizon for you, you’ll want to remember a few key things.

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A Buyer's Guide to "For Sale By Owner"

Posted by Emma Johnson on 5/31/17 9:30 AM

When you’re shopping for a home, you may come across one you’re interested in that is listed as For Sale by Owner. In 2016, 89% of homes sold involved an agent, so while this DIY approach is not the most popular choice, it is something you may come across during your search.

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What to Expect When They're Inspecting

Posted by Emma Johnson on 5/24/17 9:30 AM

A home inspection is a crucial step in the home buying process. In fact, according to a recent poll by All Star Home Inspectors, 99% of realtors recommend a home inspection to their clients. Neglecting to have a home inspected could be devastating as a new homeowner. Here are four things you should know about home inspections: 

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What's the Difference?: Homeowner's Insurance vs. Home Warranty

Posted by Emma Johnson on 5/17/17 9:30 AM

While buying a home holds lots of excitement for new opportunities, it also comes with a plethora of new responsibilities. It will likely be the biggest purchase you make in your lifetime, and protecting your investment is critical! When you're buying a home, purchasing a homeowner’s insurance policy and a home warranty are both smart ideas that can help to offer you protection as a new homeowner, but understanding the difference between the two is important because they’re quite different.

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Moving Soon? Here's Your Packing Timeline

Posted by Emma Johnson on 5/10/17 9:00 AM

Moving is notoriously stressful. From the significant financial commitments to the logistics of packing up your belongings and resettling somewhere new. It disrupts your family’s routine which can create a sense of disorder.

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30-year Mortgage: "The Best Instrument in the World"

Posted by Emma Johnson on 5/3/17 9:30 AM

If you’re on the hunt for sound financial advice, your ears should perk up when you hear from billionaire American investor Warren Buffett, who’s proven he knows a thing or two about real estate and money management. His advice to Americans looking to grow their wealth? Buy a home. Particularly if you’re looking to put down roots and stay awhile.

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Remember These Three Things When You Shop for a Home!

Posted by Emma Johnson on 4/26/17 9:30 AM

When you’re shopping for a home, there are lots of important things to consider. How good are the schools? Will the neighborhood accommodate the lifestyle you hope to have? Is it close to extended family? These things are often in the forefront of shoppers’ minds, but there are some factors that are just as important that could be easily overlooked. Before you put an offer on a house, you may want to take these three things into consideration:

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Home Sales Boom Heading Into the Busiest Homebuying Season of the Year

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/24/17 1:13 PM

Despite higher mortgage rates and home prices, houses are flying off the market this spring, according to the National Association of Realtors Existing Home Sales Report released last Friday. Home resales boomed by 4.4 percent in March, the best month-to-date since February 2007.

 

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Mortgage 101: What Is Title Insurance and Why Do You Need It to Buy a Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/19/17 9:19 AM

Though insurance isn’t likely one of your biggest concerns when it comes to purchasing a home, understanding why you need it and how it protects you is essential. You need various types of insurance to make a home purchase, and title insurance is one of those. See how it gives you peace of mind throughout the homebuying and homeownership process.

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Mortgage 101: How Your Mortgage Lender Determines Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/17/17 2:21 PM

Credit card companies, auto dealerships and mortgage lenders are just a few of the institutions that will assess your credit score before deciding if and how much they are willing to lend you and at what interest rate. When it comes to getting pre-approved for a mortgage, your credit score is one of the most influential factors determining your eligibility for a loan, so knowing how your mortgage lender determines that score is essential.

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6 Features Empty-Nesters Should Look For in Their Next Home Purchase

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/16/17 10:00 AM

The kids have flown the nest and you’re faced with the proverbial decision on your lifelong home – do you stay or do you go? While it’s never an easy decision to sell and buy again, “downsizing” paves the way for a new style of homeownership. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new home as an empty-nester here are a few things to consider in your search.

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When Is the Best Time to Buy Your First House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/12/17 8:00 AM

Buying your first home used to fall in line with a sequence of other big life events. You got a job, you got married and you bought a home. Many of today’s first-time homebuyers have broken away from that series – getting married later, having kids later and settling into homeownership later. So that begs the question: when is the best time to buy your first house?

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Bank, Broker or Mortgage Banker: Which Type of Mortgage Lender Is Right For You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/10/17 10:13 AM

When buying a home, you have a lot of choices: what type of loan you want to use, what neighborhood you want to purchase in, which real estate agent you want to work with, etc. When you apply for a mortgage, a big choice is what type of mortgage lender you want to do your financing. Will you go to your bank, find a mortgage broker or work with a mortgage banker? We’ve laid out the definition of each type of lender to help you make the choice that’s right for you.

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7 Telltale Signs It’s Time to Upsize Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/8/17 9:00 AM

You’ve probably been told that the longer you stay in a home, the more financially beneficial homeownership is. But when you’ve been living in your 2-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home for six years and added two kids and a dog into your household, how long is too long. After all, starter homes are called starter homes for a reason. Here are a few ways to tell it’s time to upsize your home.

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Mortgage 101: What's the Difference Between Your APR and Your Mortgage Rate?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/3/17 9:43 AM

Buying and financing a home includes navigating the world of mortgage terminology, a lot of which are acronyms, i.e. DTI, PMI, PITI, and APR. When shopping for a mortgage or any type of credit product, for that matter, keep in mind that the advertised interest rate isn't the same as your loan's annual percentage rate (APR). Here's what you should know about the difference between a mortgage rate and APR.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…to List Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/2/17 8:00 AM

Though every real estate market is different, the spring and summer months are a very popular time for sellers to list their homes. In fact, a new Zillow analysis found that in all but five of the U.S.’s biggest markets, the best month to list your home is April or May.

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Mortgage 101: How Long Does It Really Take to Buy a House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/29/17 9:00 AM

Buying a home takes several steps, especially if you’re like the majority of homebuyers who finance their homes. While you’re eager to get into your new house, you’ll need to practice patience in a few of the steps throughout the homebuying process. Here are some typical timeframes of the steps to buying a home.

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Buying a New Build: Spec Home, Custom or Production – What’s Right for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/27/17 6:23 AM

You’ve weighed the pros and cons from pricing and customization to location and home maintenance and decided that a new home is a better fit for you than purchasing an existing home. But what type of new home is the right choice for you? Learn the differences here.

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Spring Housing Market Update: 5 Facts for Homebuyers and Sellers

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/26/17 12:35 PM

As one of the most popular times of the year to buy or sell a home, the 2017 spring housing market is off to an early start. See what mortgage rates, home prices, homebuyer traffic and home inventory are doing to shape this year’s spring market.

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3 Reasons a Loan Commitment Is Essential for Homebuyers This Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/22/17 8:00 AM

With mortgage rates still favorable, home prices rising and the number of existing homes on the market near record a record low, having sound financing is essential if you hope to purchase a home heading into the busiest homebuying season of the year. Here’s how a loan commitment gives you a head start against other buyers in the market.

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The Top 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy a Home – and Why They’re Wrong

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/20/17 8:00 AM

Buying a home isn’t the right choice for everyone, but many renters self-exclude themselves from homeownership based on misconceptions they have about the home financing and homebuying process. If owning a home is a priority for you, don’t let these mortgage and homeownership myths discourage you from making it a reality.


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What Are Your Home Financing Options When You Have a Lower Credit Score?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/15/17 9:05 AM

Credit scores are a huge part of the loan approval process. They not only determine your eligibility for home financing but can also determine what mortgage rate you will qualify for. But what if your credit score falls on the lower side of the spectrum?

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5 Mistakes That Could Derail Your Homebuying Plans

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/12/17 1:46 PM

Buying a home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime, so it makes sense that preparing to buy one takes a little longer than most other purchases. With that being said, there are several mistakes you should avoid if you hope to purchase a home in the next few months.

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7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Forgo Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/11/17 10:00 AM

Think of all the tasks you no longer need to hire out. You don’t need a travel agent to book a vacation. You don’t need to hire a web developer to design a website. So in a DIY age with the world of real estate readily available at your keyboard, do you really need a real estate agent? Yes. Here’s why.

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Homeowners Have Missed Out on Billions in Refinance Savings – Is It Too Late for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/8/17 9:45 AM

American homeowners could have saved a combined $5.5 billion by refinancing their mortgages in 2010 and 2012, according to a new study published in the Journal of Financial Economics. Despite historically low mortgage rates, homeowners didn’t make refinancing a top priority, which prompts the question: with mortgage rates rising in 2017, is it too late for you?


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Are You Ready to Buy a Home? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/6/17 10:00 AM

Rising rental costs, low mortgage rates, financial benefits, and the ability to customize your living space are just a few of the many reasons first-time homebuyers want to take the plunge into homeownership. Regardless, buying is a big commitment and it’s crucial to make sure it’s the right lifestyle and financial choice for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself first.

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Downsizing Your Home: 5 Tips for Making the Move Into a Smaller House

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/5/17 10:00 AM

The reasons to upsize or downsize a home are as diverse as each individual family circumstance, but one qualm of moving into a smaller home is – what are you going to do with all of your belongings? Whether you’re an empty nester, are downsizing homes for a lower maintenance lifestyle, or evoking a new sense of minimalism, here are a few tips for an easier transition into your smaller home.

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Building the Millennial Dream Home: What Home Features This Generation Wants in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/4/17 9:27 AM

Millennials made waves in the 2016 housing market as the largest generational percentage of homebuyers. They were more likely to skip over traditional starter homes and more likely to consider purchasing a new build. See what home features this young generation of homebuyers would choose when given an array of options.

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6 Ways Multi-Generational & First-Time Buyers Can Benefit From the HomeReady Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/27/17 9:38 AM

Down payment requirements, carrying other monthly debt and building mortgage-ready credit are common hurdles for today’s homebuyers. A relatively new mortgage product addresses these issues and makes home financing accessible to creditworthy low- to moderate-income homebuyers through Fannie Mae’s HomeReady™ program. Here’s how the HomeReady mortgage can benefit first-time homebuyers or homebuyers looking to purchase a multi-generational home.

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5 Tips for House Hunting in a Market with Low Inventory

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/22/17 9:00 AM

Low existing home inventory isn’t new housing market issue. Low mortgage rates and rising home values have made many real estate markets extremely competitive with homes selling above listing price within a matter of days. According to the most recent existing home sales report, inventory is at its lowest in nearly two decades. Here’s how you can prepare for buying a home when inventory is tight.

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Mortgage 101: How to Get $7,500 in Down Payment Assistance as a First-Time Homebuyer

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/20/17 10:06 AM

With mortgage rates and rent prices climbing on top of the availability of several down payment assistance programs, there’s no better reason to purchase your first home sooner rather than later. Here’s how the Illinois Housing Development Authority's loan program 1stHomeIllinois makes homeownership even more enticing for first-time buyers.

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Existing Home or New Build: Which Home Type Is Right for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/19/17 10:00 AM

Everyone knows buying a home comes with a vast array of decisions. One of the bigger choices is what home type is right for you. Do you place value on architectural features over energy efficiency? Are you looking for a home you can customize or are you an avid DIY-er? Choosing between purchasing an existing home, a newly built spec home or a new construction home comes down to several factors. Here are a few things to think about.

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Buying or Refinancing? Receive Up to $20,000 in Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/13/17 10:18 AM

Closing costs and down payments are common homebuying hurdles. Though low down payment mortgage options are readily available to homebuyers, adding that with 2 to 5 percent of a home’s purchase price in closing costs can tally up quickly. The Compass Grant Program is here to help borrowers cut down on those costs.

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: How Is a Home Appraisal Calculated?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/8/17 9:30 AM

You’ve been pre-approved for home financing, found a home and settled on a purchase agreement; now what? Whether you’re buying a home or refinancing your mortgage, the value of the property in question needs to be determined through a home appraisal. So how do appraisers attach value? Here are few first-time homebuyer FAQ’s about home appraisals and the answers.

 

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: Can I Apply for Credit When Getting a Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/6/17 10:00 AM

Your loan has been fully approved and closing day has been marked on your calendar. While anticipating the day your home finally becomes your own, you’ve started to browse for furniture and appliances to deck out your new digs and intend on applying for a store credit card to score a discount. But wait; can you apply for credit when getting a mortgage?

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Mortgage 101: What Does It Mean to Lock My Mortgage Rate and When Should I Do It?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/1/17 10:13 AM

Home prices rise, home inventory fluctuates, homebuyer demand increases – timing is a big part of homebuying and home financing. If you’ve been paying attention to any economic news, you know that for the last several months, mortgage rates have been climbing from their historical lows. So if you’re planning to purchase a home soon, what does it mean to lock an interest rate and when should you do it?

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Buying vs. Renting: Doing the Math on What's Best for You

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/30/17 12:11 PM

In 2014, 11 million renters were spending at least half of their income on housing, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Another 21.3 million (over 50 percent of renters) were spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent payments. So in an era where rent costs are going up, up, up, how do you decide whether buying a home or continuing to pay the landlord’s mortgage is the right financial choice for you? Here are several things you should factor in when considering the buying vs. renting scenario.

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Buying a Vacation Home: How to Find the Best Place to Purchase

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/29/17 10:34 AM

It’s that time of year again. Dreary skies and cool temps coupled with spring break planning has you thinking of what it’s actually like to own a home in your favorite vacation spot. In 2015, vacation homebuyers accounted for 16 percent of all homebuyers, which is historically high, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Investment & Vacation Home Buyers Survey. If a vacation home has been on your mind, here’s what you need to know about financing and choosing a good second home investment.

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Pre-Approval vs. Loan Commitment: What You Need to Understand About the Difference

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/23/17 9:32 AM

We’re only months away from the busiest homebuying season. Whether you’re planning to make a home purchase yet this winter or are waiting until spring, you’re likely making strides to get your credit score and finances in the best shape possible. Another step you should pay a good amount of attention to: your path to home financing. Here’s what you need to know about pre-approvals versus loan commitments to determine which is the right step for you.


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Buying Your First Home: What to Expect on Your Loan Application (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/22/17 9:54 AM

After pre-approval, compiling your loan application is one of the first official steps toward achieving home financing. You mortgage banker will have some paperwork for you and you will have to compile some paperwork for them to verify your employment, income, available funds and home you wish to purchase.

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How to Sidestep 9 of the Biggest First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/21/17 11:04 AM

Buying a home is a big financial and lifestyle decision, and if it’s your first home, it can be nerve-racking. Though your mortgage banker and real estate agent will be there to guide you, there are certain things you should be aware of before jumping into your homebuying journey. Here’s our list of the biggest first-time homebuyer blunders and how to avoid them.

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Should You Pay Additional Principal on Your Mortgage? 5 Things to Consider First

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/18/17 10:15 AM

You’ve likely dreamed of the day that you would own your home free and clear. If you want to see that day sooner rather than later, you know that making additional principal payments is your route to mortgage freedom. While there are several benefits of paying additional principal on your mortgage, there are several variables that determine whether it's the right choice for your financial situation right now.

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Why Location Matters & How to Scout Out the Best Spot When Buying Your First Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/15/17 10:25 AM

“Location, location, location” wouldn’t be the real estate industry’s catchphrase if it didn’t hold any weight. Nevertheless, the slogan is right. You can change a home but you can’t change its location. Here’s why location matters when it comes to a potential home purchase and how to scout out the best neighborhood to buy in.

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7 Ways to Build Mortgage-Ready Credit in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/11/17 9:00 AM

Preparing to buy a home should start long before walking through a potential home to purchase, so if buying a home is one of your 2017 resolutions, you will find these tips helpful for building a healthy credit score. Your first official step to buying a home should always be meeting with a lender for a pre-approval, but your credit is a mortgage factor you should be continually working on when you're wanting to achieve home financing.

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Mortgage 101: Which Mortgage Is Right for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/9/17 10:06 AM

Buying a home can come with an overwhelming amount of choices. What school district do you want to purchase in? Who should you choose for a real estate agent? How much can you afford to spend on your home purchase? Just like choosing a home style, there are several loan types and programs made to benefit a wide range of homebuyers.

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5 Reasons 2017 Is Your Year to Buy a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/7/17 8:16 AM

Tired of paying your landlord's mortgage? Keeping your eye on mortgage rates? Want to cash in on the tax benefits of homeownership? There are a million reasons why buying a home is a good idea, so we’ve compiled some of the biggest reasons why you should make your home purchase in 2017.

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How to Receive Up to $20,000 in Down Payment Assistance

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/5/17 9:30 AM

Closing costs and down payments are common homebuying hurdles. With that being said, we are excited to announce our introduction of Associated Bank’s Homeowner’s Edge Loan Plus (HELP) program at Compass Mortgage.

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Mortgage 101: What Are Closing Costs and How Can You Minimize Them?

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/4/17 10:00 AM

When you get a mortgage, you will most likely be paying closing costs at the finalization of your purchase or refinance. These costs, which typically range from 2 to 5 percent of your home’s purchase price, are charged by your mortgage lender and third parties that have performed services related to your home purchase (a lot of behind-the-scenes players are involved in the home buying and financing process). See here what you can expect to pay within your closing costs and ways you can try to minimize what you need to bring to closing.

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7 New Year's Resolutions to Make to Buy a Home in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/1/17 10:00 AM

Happy New Year! 2016 was a hot year in the real estate market with high homebuyer demand, low inventory and historically low mortgage rates throughout the majority of the year. If this is the year you want to become a homeowner, here are 7 resolutions to make to set yourself up for the best homebuying and home financing experience.


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Mortgage-Ready Credit: 9 Tips for Paying Off Holiday Debt

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/26/16 10:00 AM

December spending turns into January bill-paying. If you’re suffering from the post-holiday debt blues, you’re not alone. Americans add an average of $986 in debt throughout the holiday season with less than half planning to pay off that debt in less than 5 months, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney. Whether improving your credit score or decreasing your debt is one of your resolutions in 2017, here’s how to tackle those outstanding holiday balances.

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First-Time Homeowners: 8 Essential Things to Buy After You Buy Your House

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/24/16 10:00 AM

You’ve closed on your mortgage and the moving truck has come and gone. Though you’re anxious to turn what looks like a bare house into a suitably decorated home, you need to assess what you need to buy first. Here’s our list of what every first-time homeowner should put at the top of their list.

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Mortgage 101: Four Things You Should Know About Buying a Home in a Homeowners' Association

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/19/16 10:00 AM

So you want to purchase a home in a community with a homeowners’ association. According to HOA-USA, there are over 351,000 homeowner assocations in the United States, representing 40 million households. Many homebuyers love the idea of enforced community appearance, included maintenance like snow removal, recreational amenities, and association management, but here are a few things you should consider when planning to purchase a home within an HOA.

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10 Homebuying & Mortgage Myths You Need to Stop Believing Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/18/16 10:00 AM

You’ve been diligently working on the steps to go from renting to homeownership, setting aside money for a down payment and paying down your credit cards, but are you still buying in to some of the biggest homebuying myths?

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The Beginners Guide to Buying Rental Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/17/16 10:00 AM

According to a 2016 Gallup poll, Americans’ top pick for “best long-term investment” is real estate, coming in ahead of stocks, mutual funds, gold, savings, CD’s and bonds. While owning your own home has an immense amount of benefits, so does purchasing and maintaining a rental property, though it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering the path of real estate investing, see what you need to consider first.

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Mortgage 101: 5 Types of Insurance You May (or May Not) Need When Buying a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/7/16 9:00 AM

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will make in your lifetime, so protecting it (and your belongings within it) is essential as a homeowner. There are several types of insurance associated with homebuying, some of which you have a choice in and others required by your mortgage lender to protect their collateral. See what you need here.

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Winter Housing Market Update: 6 Facts for Winter Homebuyers & Sellers

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/5/16 12:47 PM

Often pegged as the “slow season” in real estate, winter may be an optimal time for you to enter the housing market or sell your home and buy again. See what mortgage rates, home prices, homebuyer traffic and home inventory are doing to shape the winter housing market.

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Preparing to Buy Your First Home in 2017: 5 Things You Should Start Doing Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/4/16 12:51 PM

Increasing mortgage rates coupled with rising home prices and rent costs are among a few of the reasons 2017 could be a good year for you to buy a home. Here’s what you can and should be doing now if 2017 is the year you want to get out of the rental circuit.

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6 Reasons You Should Buy a Home Over the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/27/16 11:06 AM

Holiday parties, guests, shopping, baking and cooking: would you want to add buying a house to your stacked holiday to-do list? While homebuyer traffic does decrease significantly on actual holidays, house-hunting isn't as impacted as you'd assume during the holiday season (and for good reason).

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12 Homebuying & Home Financing Terms All First-Time Homebuyers Should Know

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/21/16 10:00 AM

Buying a home, especially your first home, can sometimes be a confusing process. With new terms like earnest money and title search jumping out at you from purchase contracts and mortgage documents, you may find your head spinning. That’s why we’ve compiled some of the common home financing terms you should understand when purchasing a home.

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Fixer-Upper Listings on the Rise: What You Need to Know About Financing a Home in Need of Renovations

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/16/16 12:50 PM

As homebuyer demand continues to outpace supply, a new Zillow analysis found that there are 12% more fixer-upper homes on the market now than there were five years ago. Low existing home supply coupled with competitive homebuyers has created a seller’s market, and with high demand for houses, sellers aren’t feeling the pressure to make updates before putting their home on the market.

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10 Pros & Cons You Can Expect When Buying a Home in the Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/14/16 3:01 PM

The shift in weather may have inspired thoughts of holiday shopping, but what about shopping for a home? Though spring and summer are considered the most popular seasons of the year to buy a home, don’t let winter weather and the holidays deter you from purchasing in the off-season. In fact, the best day of the year to buy a home is in late October, in regards to getting the best price deal. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to brave the weather or wait until spring, here are some pros and cons of winter homebuying.

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11 Tasks Everyone Should Complete Before Moving Into a New Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/13/16 11:19 AM

Your belongings are boxed up, the moving truck is scheduled and you've recruited family and friends to help unload on moving day. Moving to a new home is an exciting, albeit exhausting, task. Before you start unloading the moving truck, here's a list of to-do items you should take care of before you fill your new home with boxes.

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2016 Marks the Biggest Year in the History of VA Loans: 4 Ways Veteran Homebuyers Benefit

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/11/16 10:36 AM

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs guaranteed more than 707,000 home loans, making it the largest year in the history of the VA loan program. In honor of the men and women who have served our country, we’re highlighting the ways the VA loan program makes homeownership attainable and affordable for our veterans.

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Is My Credit Score Good Enough to Buy a Home? 5 Credit Questions First-Time Homebuyers Ask

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/7/16 2:45 PM

With mortgage rates still near historic lows, many first-time homebuyers are looking to purchase and finance homes, making it more crucial than ever for them to understand what part their credit score plays in the mortgage process. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding credit scores and homebuying.

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Renovating Your Fixer-Upper: 7 Facts About the HomeStyle® Renovation Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/2/16 10:35 AM

Renovation TV shows like Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict can inspire homebuyers to purchase a home in need of some TLC, but they leave out a very technical part of the process: financing the renovations. Fannie Mae's HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage is one of a few renovation loans we offer. This loan type allows purchase and refinance borrowers to include financing for home improvements into the transaction of an existing home. Here's what you need to know about this renovation loan.

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How to Set Aside the Top 7 First-Time Homebuyer Fears

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/29/16 12:37 PM

Terrified of jumping into the homeownership circle? As with any large purchase, buying a home can be unnerving for someone who has little knowledge of the homebuying and financing process. Here's how to set some of those fears aside when preparing to make a home purchase.

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Should You Stay or Should You Go? 6 Things to Consider When Deciding to Renovate or Relocate

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/26/16 10:00 AM

At some point as a homeowner you’re going to come to an inevitable, emotional and mathematical fork in the road. Whether your starter home isn’t enough for your growing family, you’ve recently become an empty nester or you just really want an updated kitchen or floor plan, you’ll likely ask yourself whether it’s in your best interests to remodel or renovate or list and trade up.

 

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Buying a Home is Cheaper Than Renting in the All of the Nation’s 100 Largest Metros

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/24/16 1:30 PM

Mortgage rates increased last week to a four-month high, but according to Trulia’s latest rent vs. buy study, rates would need to double, even triple, to make renting the better financial choice over buying a home.

 

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6 Characteristics of Home Sellers Who Sold Above Listing Price in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/23/16 9:49 AM

What’s the ultimate goal for home sellers? To sell for top dollar, at top-notch speed. In Zillow’s newest report on consumer housing trends, they found several distinct characteristics of sellers who received bids above listing price.

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8 Ways Millennial & First-Time Homebuyers Are Shaping the 2016 Housing Market

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/19/16 11:43 AM

Coming of age in the recession has painted a different homebuying picture for the Millennial generation. With surmounting student debt and rent prices, the real estate market was once asking, “Where are the Millennials?” But according to a new study performed by Zillow the Millennials are making their own waves in the housing market with their new approaches to shopping, financing and purchasing.

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USDA Rural Development or FHA: Which Is the Best Mortgage Option for a First-Time Homebuyer?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/17/16 2:33 PM

Today’s first-time homebuyers face a new set of homebuying hurdles. From saving for a down payment and closing costs to credit scores and debt, mortgage affordability is a key concern for many homebuyers. So today we’re reviewing pros and cons and costs and eligibility requirements associated with two affordable mortgage options: the USDA Rural Development and FHA loan.

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Buying Your First Home: Should You Save For a Down Payment or Pay Off Debt First?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/16/16 10:54 AM

Many potential homebuyers cite existing debt or saving funds for a down payment as the biggest hurdles in their homebuying journey. But what if you have existing debt and a low balance in your savings account? Where do you start?

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The Zero Down Payment Mortgage Program Is Now Even More Affordable

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/10/16 1:30 PM

If you’ve heard of the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Loan Program, you know that it’s an extremely affordable mortgage program, boasting several benefits for first-time and repeat homebuyers. As if the zero down payment requirement and lower-than-market interest rates weren’t enough, USDA loans became even more affordable at the beginning of this month.

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How Much Mortgage Can You Afford? 7 Factors That Affect Home Affordability

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/9/16 9:08 AM

One of the most common first-time homebuyer questions is how much can I afford to buy? Home affordability weighs on many factors that your lender will analyze to give you an appropriate, pre-approved purchase point.

 

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5 Preparation Steps to Move From Renting to Owning 

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/3/16 4:13 PM

If you’re thinking of purchasing a home in the near future because of high rent, you’re not alone. In the first quarter of 2016, one in four homebuyers was looking to purchase a home because of their expensive rent, according to Redfin. Homeownership is a big decision, so whether you plan to buy this fall or down the road, walk through these initial steps to go from renting to owning.

 

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Mortgage 101: What Is Loan Amortization & How Does It Affect My Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/28/16 1:49 PM

One of the biggest perks of a fixed-rate mortgage is the consistent monthly payment. While a borrower’s fixed-rate monthly mortgage payment remains the same for the life of the loan, the amount of payment going toward the loan’s principal and interest varies monthly as it is paid down. This is known as amortization.

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11 Common Homebuying Myths & Misconceptions Debunked

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/25/16 11:12 AM

Buying a home is a huge investment, making education essential. Here are several common myths and misconceptions surrounding the process of buying and financing a home.

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5 Perks of Buying a House in the Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/12/16 2:19 PM

Last year, a RealtyTrac study of over 32 million real estate transactions dating back to 2000 found that the best month to close on a home purchase is October. On average, October homebuyers received a 2.6 percent discount below estimated market value. Thinking of purchasing this fall? Here are five other perks of buying September through November.

 

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7 Steps to Buying Your First Home This Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/10/16 9:45 AM

So you’ve decided to buy a home this fall. Congratulations! There are several benefits of autumn homebuying, but before you start thumbing through online listing photos, there are a few educational and financial steps to complete to get yourself in the best shape for a mortgage and homeownership, in general.

Here’s how to get on the right track to becoming a first-time homeowner this fall.

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How to Get $7,500 in Down Payment Assistance as a First-Time Homebuyer in Illinois

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/31/16 3:09 PM

With interest rates near historic lows, rent costs still on the rise, and the availability of down payment and closing cost assistance programs, there are no greater incentives to become a first-time homebuyer. Here's how the Illinois Housing Development Authority's mortgage program makes homeownership even more enticing for first-timers.

 

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What the Millennial First-Time Homebuyer Looks Like in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/29/16 11:26 AM

Last year, Millennials made up the largest generational share of homebuyers. Their wants and needs in the housing market are heavily-observed and analyzed – and for good reason! Here are six surprising statistics from a recent TD Bank survey of potential first-time homebuyers.

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Owning Your First Home: 6 Common Home Maintenance Problems & How to Solve Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/28/16 11:22 AM

Homes are subject to normal wear and tear, but certain problems should be addressed to make sure your home is as safe, comfortable and energy-efficient as possible. Here are the likely causes of some common home maintenance issues and what you can do to fix them.

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Mortgage 101: Who's Who in Your Home Financing Process?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/27/16 7:48 AM

The homebuying process goes beyond your real estate agent and mortgage banker. When it comes to your home financing, there are a lot of key players who have large roles in seeing your mortgage go from pre-approved to closed. Here are a few of the mortgage professionals that play a part in the loan process.

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Mortgage 101: 7 Things That Affect How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/22/16 3:05 PM

One of the most common first-time homebuyer questions is how much can I afford to buy? Home affordability weighs on many factors that your lender will analyze to give you an appropriate, pre-approved purchase point.

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Mortgage 101: What Goes Into a Mortgage Payment?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/21/16 10:55 AM

Understanding the elements of your mortgage payment is as easy as remembering four letters – P, I, T, I. The mortgage industry uses the acronym PITI, which stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance, to break down the components of homeowners’ mortgage payments.

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Find the Perfect Home? Assess These 7 Easily Overlooked Items First

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/20/16 2:30 PM

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. You’ve narrowed down what you think is the perfect home, but have you assessed all of the little things on top of the major items? Make sure your home purchase is well suited to your needs by reviewing these easy-to-miss home factors.

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Mortgage 101: How to Get a USDA Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/15/16 12:58 PM

Looking to purchase a home without the means for a down payment? A USDA loan, formally known as the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan program, is an attractive program for homebuyers struggling to overcome one of the largest obstacles to achieving homeownership: down payment.

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First-Time Homeowners: Which Mulch Type Is Right for Your Landscaping?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/14/16 10:32 AM

As your garden beds need replenished or revitalized, take the time to think about which type of mulch is right for your landscaping needs. Mulch not only gives your curb appeal a boost, it also has several benefits to improve the health of your plants, including moisture retention, soil temperature control, weed suppression, erosion control, and soil nutrients. Here's how to pick the right mulch for your plants and personal preference.

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Back to School! Home Values 77 Percent Higher in Zip Codes With Good Schools Than Those Without

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/10/16 10:13 AM

A home within a great school district has always been a good selling point, but now a new study performed by ATTOM Data Solutions shows just how big the impact of high-performing education is on home values.

 

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Buying a Home is 36% Cheaper Than Renting! 5 Big Reasons to Become a Homeowner in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/8/16 4:17 PM

One in four homebuyers was looking to purchase a home in the first quarter of 2016 because rent was too high, up from one in five in November 2015, according to Redfin. Renters are feeling the burden of their monthly lease while homebuying continues to be the cheaper option by 36% , according to the latest Trulia Rent vs. Buy Report.

See five other benefits of buying a home sooner than later.

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How to Finance a Fixer-Upper: 3 Loan Options for Home Renovations & Home Improvements

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/7/16 10:52 AM

According to a report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing, home improvement and repair spending will increase 8 percent by the beginning of 2017. As existing home inventory has dwindled, homebuyers have purchased homes that need repairs, renovations and improvements.

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First-Time Homebuyers: How to Conquer the 7 Biggest Homebuying & Financing Fears

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/31/16 12:40 PM

Hesitant of jumping into the homeownership circle? As with any large purchase, buying a home can be unnerving for someone who has limited knowledge of the homebuying and financing process. As the mortgage world is constantly changing, there are also several misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home.

Here's how to set some of those fears and misconceptions aside when thinking of buying a home.

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Mortgage Goals: 6 Things to Consider Before Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/30/16 2:15 PM

Freedom from debt is arguably one of the best feelings. As homeowners build their savings and investments, many ask if paying off their mortgage early is the right path to financial freedom and stability.

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Mortgage 101: What First-Time Homebuyers Should Know About Their Credit Scores

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/27/16 12:49 PM

With mortgage rates still near historic lows, many consumers are looking to purchase and finance homes, making it more crucial than ever for them to understand what part their credit score plays in the mortgage process. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding credit scores and homebuying.

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9 Avoidable Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Often Make

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/25/16 11:01 AM

Buying your first home is a big financial and lifestyle decision. While your lender and real estate agent will help guide you through the process of buying and financing the property, there are certain things a first-time homebuyer should be aware of throughout their homebuying journey. Here are eight common mistakes to avoid making when buying your first home.

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Midsummer Housing Market Update: 6 Things Homebuyers & Sellers Should Know

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/22/16 10:06 AM

At the beginning of July, Realtor.com Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke was predicting this summer to be the “best summer for the housing market in a decade”. According to existing home sales, prices and median contract times, the market is fiercely competitive and moving quickly.

 

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Pre-Approval vs. Loan Commitment: What’s the Difference & Which One Do I Need as a Homebuyer?

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/18/16 12:16 PM

Mortgage rates have spiraled down to historical lows again and the summer homebuying market is in full swing. A hot housing market means more buyers vying for potential homes, but what does this have to do with your home financing? A lot.

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The Zero Down Payment Mortgage Option You’ve Probably Never Heard About

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/13/16 10:14 AM

Half of all consumers still consider saving for down payment as a homebuying barrier, according to an Ellie Mae survey. If you’re under the impression that it takes a 20 percent down payment to buy a home, you are more than misinformed. Down payment assistance and multiple low down payment loan options are available, even one that requires zero money upfront. 

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6 of the Most Commonly Asked Questions by First-Time Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/11/16 1:55 PM

Is the opportunity of historically low mortgage rates and the surmounting cost of rent enticing you to purchase your first home? Homeownership is a huge, yet beneficial, financial decision. We want our homebuyers to understand the benefits of homeownership, the mortgage process, the costs of their mortgage, and their overall homeownership affordability, so we've compiled a list of common first-time homebuyer questions and answers.

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Think You Can't Qualify to Buy a Home? You May Be Wrong

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/10/16 9:58 AM

Mortgage misconceptions are pretty commonplace as loan options and mortgage qualifications change, but a new study performed by Fannie Mae found that a vast majority of U.S. consumers, especially those who plan to buy a home in the next five years, don’t know or are misinformed on what it takes to buy a home.


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8 Efficient Ways to Pay Down Debt When Preparing to Buy a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/6/16 1:03 PM

While you don't need to be debt-free to purchase a home, a mortgage is a big financial commitment, so many homebuyers choose to lighten the load of their existing debt when preparing to buy a house. Though existing debt may not be a homebuying hurdle for everyone, financial freedom is a heavily sought goal for many.

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Happy 4th of July! Celebrating Our Independence & Spreading Awareness of VA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/4/16 1:34 PM

Happy 4th of July! As we celebrate our country’s independence, we would like to thank the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedoms. In honor of the holiday, we’d like to spread some awareness for veteran homebuyers and homeowners who do not know the benefits of the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

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How to Finance a New Home from the Ground Up

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/27/16 1:48 PM

With a lack of inventory in the existing home market, building a home may have crossed your mind as a potential option. If you were to do a quick web search of “construction loans”, you’d find an immense amount of information but when it comes to building a home, the financing involved is just as personal as customizing the home you hope to build.

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Fix It or Leave It? What Home Improvements Are Worth Doing Before Selling Your Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/25/16 10:00 AM

When preparing to sell your home, you may notice there are some repairs, upgrades, or cosmetic flaws you didn't get to cross off your homeowner to-do list. Certain areas of a home can turn away potential buyers or downgrade their price offer, but what upgrades are worth your investment as a seller? Here's what to fix and what to leave as-is for the new homeowners.

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Getting a Competitive Edge as a Homebuyer: 3 Reasons You Need a Loan Commitment This Summer

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/20/16 12:38 PM

With mortgage rates still near historic lows and rent still on the up and up, we’re likely to see an influx of homebuyers this summer. Home inventory, on the other hand, has been lagging and continually brewing conditions for a competitive homebuying market

Acting quickly on making an offer and hiring a great real estate agent are essential in a competitive housing market, but you also need to have all your ducks in a row with your home financing. Here’s how to obtain financing with the power of a cash offer.

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7 Essential Factors to Consider Throughout Your Home Search

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/19/16 8:59 AM

 You’ve thumbed through listing photos online, compiled a list of favorite properties and are ready to start your home tours. While a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some non-aesthetic, very important items to factor in to your purchase considerations.

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Homebuyers, Homeowners, Real Estate Investors, Vacation Homebuyers: We Want to Hear From You!

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/15/16 10:12 AM

Buying, financing and maintaining a home is a multi-step journey, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or an experienced homeowner. This is why we strive to educate potential homebuyers and homeowners prior to and after closing on their mortgage. But we need a little feedback on topic areas we may have missed.

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7 Steps to Buying Your First Home This Summer

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/8/16 10:00 AM

So you’ve decided to buy a home this summer. Congratulations! But before you start thumbing through online listing photos, there are a few educational and financial steps to complete to get yourself in the best shape for a mortgage and homeownership, in general.

Here’s how to get on the right track to becoming a first-time homeowner this summer.

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New Home Construction: 6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Builder

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/6/16 1:16 PM

Buying a home comes with its own distinct set of choices and options, but when you choose to build a new home, the amount of choices increase immensely. Your home builder is one of the most important. Here’s how to determine which one is right for you. 

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Memorial Day 2016: 7 Fast Facts About VA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/30/16 9:56 AM

Service men and women and their families make many sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a token of appreciation, the United State Department of Veterans Affairs provides a loan program with a mission to help servicemen, servicewomen, veterans and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners.

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16 Ingenious Hacks & Tips to Make Moving a Breeze

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/28/16 9:00 AM

Moving to a new home can be an exciting time - until you actually have to move. Organize, pack, label, lift, repeat may not be your favorite activity, so we've compiled a list of ingenious moving hacks to help rid some of the anxiety, stress and time-consuming tasks that come with packing up your life's belongings.

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What's the Best Long-Term Investment? Americans Say Real Estate.

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/20/16 8:00 AM

Real estate has been Americans’ top pick for “best long-term investment” for the past two years, according to an April 2016 Gallup poll. This year, real estate took a significant lead against stocks, mutual funds, gold, savings, CD’s and bonds with 35% of polled Americans saying that real estate is the better long-term investment.

 

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Mortgage 101: What's a Lender Credit? How Does It Benefit Homebuyers?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/18/16 9:55 AM

With average closing costs ranging from 2 to 5 percent of a home's purchase price, gathering the funds for closing on top of a down payment can be a major hurdle for first-time homebuyers. This is where lender credits come into play.

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Mortgage 101: Home Financing Terms All First-Time Homebuyers Should Understand

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/15/16 10:00 AM

Buying a home, especially your first home, can sometimes be a confusing process. With new terms like earnest money and title search jumping out at you from purchase contracts and mortgage documents, you may find your head spinning. That’s why we’ve compiled some of the common home financing terms you should understand when purchasing a home.

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Making Home Improvements: 7 Ways to Get Your Air Conditioner Ready for the Summer Heat

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/14/16 10:16 AM

It’s getting to be that time of year when having the windows open just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. As with any main system of your home, your central air conditioner needs some TLC to keep it running efficiently. Use these tips to keep your home cool this spring and summer.

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Buying a Home in Need of Renovations? Here's How to Finance It

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/9/16 11:07 AM

Buying a fixer-upper or is your current home just in need of some major functional or aesthetic improvements? Finding a home that meets every one of your wants and needs can be a daunting and somewhat unrealistic task. While TV shows like Fixer Upper may inspire you to take on an older home in need of some TLC, they leave out a very important part of home renovations: how to finance them. 

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Limited Funds for a Down Payment? These Loan Programs Can Help You Out

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/4/16 9:55 AM

Mortgage rates are hovering near yearlong lows and rental rates continue to skyrocket, so why isn’t everyone buying a home right now? The truth is, one of the biggest challenges renters face is saving for a down payment, especially renters that are burdened with astronomical leases and student debt payments.

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Budget Renovations: 5 Simple Ways to Update Your Bathroom Without Remodeling

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/2/16 11:20 AM

Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes, especially to Millennial homebuyers who want to avoid costly renovations. Luckily, bathrooms can be updated dramatically, quickly and on a budget without the need for a major remodel.

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Mortgage 101: Pre-Qualification, Pre-Approval & Loan Commitment – What’s the Difference?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/27/16 9:37 AM

Are you pre-approved? Pre-qualified? Do you have a commitment letter from your lender? At some point during your home search, you’ll likely be asked one of these questions. Pre-qualification, pre-approval and loan commitment are three very different stages, so knowing the difference will help you avoid surprises throughout home buying and financing process.

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6 Habits to Break to Build Mortgage-Ready Credit

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/25/16 12:54 PM

Your credit score is used as a risk factor in determining your mortgage eligibility. It can determine if and how much you can borrow (and at what interest rate, depending on your loan program). If homeownership is one of your 2016 goals, here are six credit habits to break to get your score mortgage-ready.

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Rent on the Rise: Chicago Ranks #9 in Most Expensive Cities to Rent

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/20/16 10:00 AM

Though the median rental rate dropped nearly 3 percent in February, Chicago still maintained the number nine spot on Zumper’s National Rent report, which highlights the fluctuations in rental rates of the United States’ largest 50 cities.

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Mortgage 101: 7 Things NOT to Do After Applying for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/17/16 11:03 AM

You likely know the list of things to do and not to do before applying for a mortgage, but there’s also certain actions regarding your credit score, finances and employment that should wait until after closing day. Avoid making these mistakes between your application and closing to keep your loan on track.

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Getting a Competitive Edge as a Homebuyer: 3 Reasons You Need a Loan Commitment This Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/13/16 11:05 AM

With mortgage rates near historic lows and rent still on the rise, we’re likely to see an influx of homebuyers this spring. Home inventory, on the other hand, has been lagging and brewing conditions for a competitive homebuying market

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10 Home Features the Millennial Homebuyer Wants in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/8/16 11:03 AM

Ever wonder why Millennials receive so much attention, especially in the housing market? Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and in 2015, they made up the largest generational share of homebuyers (35%).

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Mortgage 101: What Is a USDA Loan? Am I Eligible for One?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/6/16 10:00 AM

Want to buy a home but don’t have the means for a down payment? The USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, also known as a USDA or Rural Development loan, is an attractive mortgage program for homebuyers struggling to overcome one of today’s biggest homebuying obstacles: saving for a down payment. But what is a USDA loan?

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Homebuying 101: How to Determine Which Home Type Is Right for You

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/2/16 11:49 AM

Determining what type of housing is right for you can prove to be a difficult task when you factor in what you need now and the future possibilities of job promotions, budget fluctuations, out-of-state moves, a marriage, birth of a child, children going off to college, etc. 

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Homebuying 101: 7 Tips for Buying a Home in a Competitive Housing Market

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/31/16 12:45 PM

Even as existing home sales decreased by 7 percent in February, inventory lagged going into the busiest season of the year to buy a home. A 6 month supply is an indicator of a balanced housing market, but February’s existing home inventory hovered at the 4.4 month mark, paving the way for a seller’s market and competition among spring homebuyers.

Here’s how to prepare as a homebuyer entering into a competitive market.

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Millennials in the Housing Market: 17 Fast Facts About Millennial Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/29/16 4:13 PM

Millennials often get a bad reputation when it comes to defying societal norms. Statistically, they’re getting married later, waiting to have children and buying homes at a later life stage. But according to that National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2016 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, Millennial homebuying habits may be trending toward the traditional path of their parents and grandparents.

In 2015, the largest share of homebuyers (35%) fell within the Millennial generation. Here’s what we know about Millennial homebuying habits last year.

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/28/16 10:00 AM

Credit scores are a huge part of the mortgage pre-approval process. It not only determines your eligibility for home financing but can also determine what rate you will qualify for. Why? Because your credit score represents to lenders how risky of a borrower you are.

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Mortgage 101: How to Conquer the 7 Biggest Homebuying Fears

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/26/16 9:35 AM

Terrified of jumping into the homeownership circle? As with any large purchase, buying a home can be unnerving for someone who has limited knowledge of the homebuying and financing process. As the mortgage world is constantly changing, there are also several misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home.

Here's how to set some of those fears and misconceptions aside when thinking of buying a home.

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Renting vs. Buying: A 7-Year Comparison

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/24/16 10:17 AM

To rent or to buy? That is the (important) question. And it should be – choosing to buy a home is most likely the biggest financial decision of your lifetime. Choosing between a home purchase and a rental is also a highly personal decision, but here’s what we know on the financial side.

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Mortgage Goals: Should You Pay Down Your Mortgage or Invest More?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/23/16 1:42 PM

While ridding yourself of debt is a common mortgage goal for many, becoming “financially free” isn’t as black and white when it comes to paying off your mortgage. There are several variable s to consider when determining if mortgage freedom is the right stepping stone to financial freedom. Could your money be of better use (and opportunity) elsewhere?

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Get Committed: 3 Ways Real Estate Agents Benefit From Loan Commitments

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/21/16 5:59 PM

Though it goes without saying, spring 2016 is going to be a busy and fairly competitive homebuying season. Low mortgage rates and rising home prices are increasing demand but February’s existing home sales report shows inventory is low, at a 4.4 month supply, going into the most popular time of year to buy a home.

So in a market that is swarming with buyers, some with cash in hand, how do get your (eventually) mortgaged homebuyers a competitive edge? Two words: loan commitment.

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9 Lawn Care, Landscaping & Gardening Do's and Don'ts for the First-Time Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/20/16 5:31 PM

Owning your first home can be overwhelming as you adjust to the new responsibilities and tasks of homeownership. While you’re busy turning the interior of your house into your own home, don’t neglect the view of from the curb. Here are some beginner’s tips for making wise and budget-friendly choices when it comes to your landscape.

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5 Reasons You Should Buy a Home in Spring 2016 (Updated)

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/19/16 1:16 PM

If you’ve been sitting on the fence between homebuying and renting, 2016 is shaping up to be a great time to purchase a home. Changes in home price growth, mortgage rates, loan options and the loan process could be just what you need to get off the homebuying sidelines.

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5 Reasons Millennials Aren’t Buying Homes and How They’re Missing Out

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/15/16 5:11 PM

Real estate experts have been trying to predict when millennials will enter the housing market for quite some time, and for good reason. Millennials make up the largest generation in the U.S., comprising one-third of the nation’s population in 2013. Their entry into homeownership is pertinent to the market, because as younger generations purchase entry-level homes, sellers can upgrade.

So in an age where mortgage rates are historically low and rental inflation has skyrocketed, why aren’t millennials buying?

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Mortgage Goals: Tips for Scouting the Best Place to Buy a Vacation Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/14/16 4:21 PM

With mortgage rates near historic lows and the continued appreciation of home values, the purchases of second homes or vacation homes have skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2014, vacation home sales boomed to a peak estimated 1.13 million, up from 717,000 in 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors.

While you’re relaxing at your spring break destination this year and find yourself entertaining the idea of purchasing a vacation home in the future, here are some considerations for choosing a good second home investment.

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6 Things You Should Know If You're Thinking of Buying a Home This Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/12/16 3:45 PM

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to buy a home! Well, at least we think so. If you’ve been on the fence about getting out of the rental circuit or upsizing/downsizing, here are some factors to consider and some tips to make your spring homebuying experience a positive one.


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Mortgage Goals: 7 Things to Consider When Buying Your First Rental Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/10/16 1:43 PM

With interest rates near historic lows and rental costs still soaring, it makes sense to invest in some real estate, but just like buying a primary home, investing in a rental property requires a lot of consideration, research, and decision-making to guarantee a positive return of investment. Though these tasks may seem daunting to a first-time real estate investor, they are essential to making sure your property will generate the revenue you desire.

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Mortgage 101: The Real Estate Agent or the Mortgage Banker? Which Comes First When Buying a Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/9/16 1:35 PM

The first steps of homebuying often bring about questions regarding who homebuyers should consult with first: a mortgage lender or a real estate agent. This chicken vs. egg-like debate can lead to frustration and common mistakes for first-time homebuyers, which is why meeting with a mortgage lender should be all homebuyers' first action when considering a home purchase.

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First-Time Homebuyers: Do You Have What It Takes to Get a Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/8/16 2:47 PM

Studies have shown that a lot of renters aren’t buying homes simply because they are misinformed or unaware of what it actually takes to get a mortgage. You don’t need a 20 percent down payment or an 800 credit score, but there are some things you do need to be eligible for financing. Here are five things to keep in mind when you decide you want to buy a home.

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Time to Refinance Your FHA Loan? Take Advantage of the FHA Streamline

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/7/16 2:02 PM

As mortgage rates have approached historical lows again, if you haven’t taken advantage of refinancing your FHA loan, there is no time like the present. The FHA is the largest insurer of residential mortgages in the world and has helped nearly 5 million families achieve homeownership since the 1930’s. Here’s how the FHA Streamline Refinance helps make the refinancing process simple and makes homeownership even more affordable for borrowers.

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12 Acronyms You Might Hear During the Mortgage Process & What They Mean

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/6/16 6:08 PM

Buying and financing a home, especially your first home, can be confusing when you’re new to the mortgage process and all of the lingo that comes with it. Knowing what these acronyms mean and how they affect your mortgage can make the experience less intimidating. Here are some common mortgage acronyms you might hear throughout your home financing journey.

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Homebuyers Name High Rent as One of Their Biggest Motivations for Purchasing in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/3/16 2:17 PM

There are 9 million more renters in the U.S. than a decade ago, the biggest jump on record. As rental demand continues to outstrip supply and median income growth lags behind rental inflation, more homebuyers are citing high rent prices as their biggest motivation for purchasing a home.

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Get Committed: How to Get Home Financing With "Cash Offer" Power

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/1/16 2:48 PM

Existing home inventory is lacking and mortgage rates are hovering around record lows. What does this mean if you’re planning on buying a home in the near future? You may come up against some competition during your home search. If you’re starting to shop for a mortgage, here’s how you can obtain home financing with the power of a cash offer.

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Mortgage 101: Five Ways Homebuyers Benefit from a USDA Rural Development Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/29/16 4:02 PM

Did you know you can buy a house without putting a single dollar down on the closing table? Though it sounds too good to be true, the United States Department of Agriculture Guaranteed Rural Development Loan, also known as a UDSA or Rural Development loan, helps potential homebuyers become homeowners with several perks unheard of with different loan programs.

Here are five ways a USDA loan benefits homebuyers. 

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7 Ways to Buy a Home Without a 20% Down Payment

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/28/16 12:35 PM

A major hurdle for some first-time homebuyers is coming up with the funds for a down payment or closing costs on their home purchase. According to a recent Bankrate.com survey non-homeowners were asked what percentage of the total cost they would need to contribute as a down payment on a potential home purchase. Nearly 2 in 10 said somewhere between 11% and 20%, while another 17% said between 6% and 10% down.

Even more notable, almost a quarter of non-homeowners said they had no idea how much they would need for a down payment to buy a home. Here are 7 loan options for eligible homebuyers who wish to buy with little to no money down.

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Buying a Home This Spring? Here's Why Your Home Search Site Matters

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/25/16 2:31 PM

When it comes to buying a home, everything matters, including how you search for a home online. According to the National Association of REALTORS’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 42 percent of recent buyers started the homebuying process by looking at listings online. As we’re approaching the highest-traffic homebuying season of the year, the timeliness and accuracy of your home search site is essential.

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Mortgage 101: 4 Things About Credit Scores All First-Time Homebuyers Should Know

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/24/16 1:34 PM

With mortgage rates near historic lows, many homebuyers are looking to purchase and finance homes, making it more crucial than ever for them to understand what part their credit score plays in the mortgage process. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding credit scores and homebuying.

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6 Steps to Buying Your First Home in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/21/16 3:45 PM

So you’ve decided to buy a home in 2016. Congratulations! But before you start thumbing through online listing photos, there are a few educational and financial steps to complete to get yourself in the best shape for a mortgage.

Here’s how to get on the right track to becoming a first-time homeowner in 2016.

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Two Big Mortgage Misconceptions Keeping Renters from Buying a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/18/16 4:15 PM

According to a recent survey by Bankrate.com, nearly half of renters say they currently don’t own a home because they can’t afford a down payment or their credit score doesn’t meet mortgage qualification standards. Are these mortgage misconceptions keeping you from buying a home?

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Your Homebuying Checklist: Which Home Style Fits You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/10/16 3:33 PM

Buying a home means making a lot of choices. How many bedrooms do I need? Who should I hire as my real estate agent? What’s my home style?

Before you start your home search, make a list of characteristics you desire in your home, whether they are functional or aesthetic. To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of the top U.S. home styles and their distinguishing characteristics.

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Mortgage 101: What's a Home Warranty? And Do You Need One?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/9/16 10:59 AM

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will make in your lifetime. Protecting your home and your checkbook is a high priority for homeowners, so when buying your first home, is a home warranty worth the investment?

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The New 3% Down Home Loan: 6 Ways You Can Benefit From the HomeReady Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/8/16 4:14 PM

Down payment requirements, carrying other monthly debt and building mortgage-ready credit are common hurdles for today’s homebuyers. A new mortgage product addresses these issues and makes home financing accessible to creditworthy low- to moderate-income homebuyers through Fannie Mae’s new HomeReady™ program.

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Top 8 Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/7/16 2:03 PM

Making the decision to buy a home isn’t one to be taken lightly. Homebuyers have a lot to think about from deciding when to buy and what home style fits their needs to saving for a down payment and keeping their credit in check. Here are some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when buying your first home.

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6 First-Time Homebuyer FAQs

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/2/16 5:25 PM

Buying a home is a huge, yet beneficial, financial decision. We want our homebuyers to understand the benefits of homeownership, the mortgage process, the costs of their mortgage, and their overall homeownership affordability, so we've compiled a list of common first-time homebuyer questions and answers.

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Mortgage 101: Four Numbers That Affect Your Homebuying Power

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/1/16 3:49 PM

Buying a home is exciting! But before you start thinking of your preferred home style or how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need, you’ll want to pay attention to these four areas that determine just how much buying power you’ll have.

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Mortgage 101: 7 Benefits of Being a Homeowner During Tax Season

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/27/16 3:40 PM

From creating a stable living environment for your family to personalizing your living space and building home equity, there is no doubt homeownership boasts several advantages. With tax season around the corner, homeowners can argue that tax benefits are one of the biggest perks of owning their own home.

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Top 13 Do’s and Don’ts of the Homebuying and Mortgage Process

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/25/16 11:42 AM

Buying a home requires more than signing on the dotted line. From preparing to buy a home to waiting for closing day, there are several things you have to keep in mind to keep your home financing on track and your homebuying experience a positive one.

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Homebuying Still More Affordable Than Renting in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/20/16 2:23 PM

Rapidly rising rents coupled with smaller wage gains show that it makes more financial sense to buy a home in most areas of the country, according to RealtyTrac’s 2016 Rental Affordability Analysis report. If you’ve been on the fence between renting and buying, here are several reasons why 2016 should be the year to break your lease.

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Financing a Fixer-Upper: 3 Home Loan Options for Improvements & Renovations

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/19/16 5:22 PM

Finding a home that meets every one of your wants and needs can be a daunting and somewhat unrealistic task. Maybe you love the look and nostalgia of an older home but also want the efficiency and modern features of new construction. Perhaps you’ve found a home with great “bones” but is in need of some major (or minor) TLC.

This is where rehab loans come into play for homebuyers who love the idea of making a home their own but need a financing option to do so. Here are three options that give you the ability to not only buy a fixer-upper but make the home improvements and renovations to make it livable and energy efficient.

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First Time Homebuyers: How to Buy a House in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/17/16 6:24 PM

Buying your first home involves much more than simply making the decision to become a homeowner. Buying your first house is a big financial commitment, and if you’re like the majority of first-time homebuyers, you’ll be looking at getting a mortgage. But where and how to start?

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Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? 5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/6/16 3:07 PM

To many, becoming debt-free is one of the most rewarding financial accomplishments. As homeowners build their savings and investments, many ask if paying of their mortgage early is the best option on their path to financial freedom and stability. The answer, though, isn’t black and white. It varies based on savings, investments, retirement, debt, and overall financial goals.

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Building Mortgage-Ready Credit: 6 Credit Habits to Break in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/5/16 4:45 PM

Your credit score is used as a risk factor in determining your mortgage eligibility. It can determine if and how much you can borrow and at what interest rate. If homeownership is one of your 2016 resolutions, here are six credit habits to break to get your score mortgage-ready.

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6 Resolutions to Make for Buying a Home in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/2/16 11:28 AM

2016 is a great year to buy a home. Mortgage rates are forecasted to increase, home prices are rising and rent is quickly outpacing wage growth. Set yourself up for the best home buying and financing experience by accomplishing these six major homebuyer resolutions.

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7 Pros and Cons of Buying a Home in the Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/23/15 4:48 PM

Though spring and summer are considered the most popular seasons of the year to buy a home, don’t let winter weather and the holidays deter you from purchasing in the off-season. In fact, the best day of the year to buy a home is in late October, in regards to getting the best price deal. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to brave the weather or wait until spring, here are some pros and cons of winter homebuying.

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Preparing to Buy a Home in 2016: 5 Things You Should Start Doing Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/22/15 5:34 PM

The potential of increasing mortgage rates, home prices and rent costs are among a few of the reasons 2016 could be a good year for you to buy a home. Here’s what you can and should be doing now if 2016 is the year you want to get out of the rental circuit.

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Mortgage 101: Top 7 Homebuying Fears & How to Face Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/15/15 3:22 PM

Terrified of jumping into the homeownership circle? As with any large purchase, buying a home can be unnerving for someone who has limited knowledge of the homebuying and financing process. As the mortgage world is constantly changing, there are also several misconceptions about what it takes to buy a home. Here's how to set some of those fears and misconceptions aside when thinking of buying a home.

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The Rent Cost Crisis: 6 Things You Should Know About Renting vs. Homebuying

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/10/15 3:13 PM

There are 9 million more renters in the U.S. than a decade ago, the biggest jump on record. As rental demand continues to outstrip supply and median income growth lags, the price of renting is likely to continue on its upward trend. If you’ve been sitting on the homebuying fence, these alarming rent statistics will show that you’re likely better off buying a home sooner rather than later.

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5 Home Loan Options for First-Time Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/30/15 2:27 PM

From student loan debt, saving for a down payment and building mortgage-ready credit, First-time homebuyers face different hurdles when it comes to buying a home. Here are some of the best options for home financing when preparing to buy your first home.

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Mortgage 101: Top 6 Reasons to Buy a Home During the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/23/15 4:26 PM

Holiday parties, guests, shopping, baking and cooking: would you want to add buying a house to your stacked holiday to-do list? While homebuyer traffic does decrease significantly on actual holidays, house-hunting isn't as impacted as you'd assume during the holiday season (and for good reason).

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What the Typical Homebuyer & Seller Looked Like in 2015 (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/18/15 1:53 PM

The annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of REALTORS gives insight into the homebuying and selling experience. Highlights from the report include the decrease of first-time homebuyers in the housing market, the buying strength of dual-income couples, and the biggest hurdles buyers face in the financing process.

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8 Tips for Paying Down Debt to Buy a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/17/15 3:02 PM

Buying a home is a big financial commitment, which is why many homebuyers chose to lighten the load of their existing debt when preparing to buy a house. Though existing debt may not be a homebuying hurdle for everyone, financial freedom is a heavily sought goal for many.

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Selling Your Home in the Fall: 10 Tips to Attract Fall Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/15/15 2:05 PM

Fall is the second best time of year to sell your home. The kids are back in school. Families aren't hustling and bustling back and forth from family vacations. The holidays aren't a stressor...yet. If you're placing your home for sale now, here are several things you need to consider doing first.

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Veterans Day 2015: 7 Fast Facts About VA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/11/15 1:58 PM

Service men and women and their families make many sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a token of appreciation, the United State Department of Veterans Affairs provides a loan program with a mission to help servicemen, servicewomen, veterans and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners.

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Determining Home Affordability: How to Use Our Mortgage Calculators

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/10/15 3:48 PM

First-time and repeat homebuyers often share a common question when it comes to purchasing a home: how much can I afford?

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4 Tips for Quickly Getting Approved for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/28/15 2:59 PM

The first step in homebuying should have little to do with scouting potential homes to purchase and everything to do with making sure you are eligible for a home loan. Meeting with a lender for a pre-approval or loan commitment should be your top priority prior to your home search, so you can determine mortgage eligibility and home affordability.

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Hey, Millennials: You're Better Off Buying a Home Than Renting

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/24/15 12:14 PM

We've known for quite some time Millennials are quite different than their predecessors. They're getting married and having kids at an older age, waiting longer to buy houses and bringing a completely different list of housing "wants" when they do decide to buy. But here's further proof that this generation is better off buying than renting.

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7 Biggest Homebuying Fears and How to Face Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/22/15 4:18 PM

Terrified of jumping into the homeownership circle? As with any large purchase, buying a home can be unnerving for someone who has little knowledge of the homebuying and financing process. Here's how to set some of those fears aside when thinking of buying a home.

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8 Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Homebuyer

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/13/15 3:52 PM

The decision to purchase a home is an exciting one for first-time homebuyers, but the investment of a home purchase shouldn't be taken lightly. Here are some common things to avoid doing as a first-time homebuyer.

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10 Common Homebuying Myths Debunked

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/12/15 11:57 AM

Buying a home is a huge investment, making education essential. Here are several common myths surrounding buying and financing a home.

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4 Reasons October Is the Best Month to Buy a House

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/6/15 1:22 PM

When you think of homebuying season, you likely imagine spring and summer. But according to a RealtyTrac study of over 32 million real estate transactions since 2000, the best month to close on a home purchase is October.

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TRID Disclosures: What's Changing in the Mortgage Process

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/22/15 2:34 PM

For more than 30 years, federal law has required mortgage lenders to provide two different disclosure forms to their borrowers after applying for a mortgage and two different forms at or shortly before closing on their mortgage loan.

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Which Home Type Is Right for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/21/15 1:05 PM

Determining what type of housing is right for you can prove to be a difficult task when you factor in the possibilities of job promotions, budget fluctuations, out-of-state moves, a marriage or birth of a child, etc. It's important to choose a housing type that fits your needs and budget in the present moment and factor in what could happen in the next 5-10 years.

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What Do You Need to Complete Your Mortgage Application? (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/20/15 9:57 AM

Your loan application is one of the first steps to getting the ball rolling on your home financing. You can fill out a loan application in person with your mortgage banker, or depending on the lender, you can start the process over the phone or online. If you’ve already been pre-approved, you may have filled out some of the application details with your mortgage banker already.

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How to Buy a Home Without a 20% Down Payment

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/17/15 8:00 AM

A major hurdle for some first-time homebuyers is coming up with the funds for a down payment or closing costs on their home purchase. Contrary to common belief, you don’t need a 20% down payment to purchase a home. Here are some of your options for buying a home with a low to no down payment option.

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Mortgage 101: Can I Change Jobs After Applying for a Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/15/15 10:03 AM

When applying for a mortgage, your actions regarding credit score, finances, and employment not only apply to pre-approval but the time between loan processing and closing. Employment and income are two of many major factors affecting your mortgage approval and affordability. With that being said, can you change jobs during the loan process?

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The Closing Cost Breakdown (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/14/15 11:15 AM

When you get a mortgage, you will most likely be paying closing costs at the finalization of your purchase or refinance. These costs are charged by your mortgage lender and third parties (appraisers, home inspectors, title companies, etc.) that have performed services related to your home purchase.

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7 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/4/15 11:56 AM

More Americans would be embarrassed to admit their credit scores (30%) than their weight (12%), according to a survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. While credit doesn't get damaged overnight, there are some actions you can take to help boost your score in a timely manner. Here are a few ways to get you headed in the direction of healthy credit.

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6 Advantages of Buying a Home in the Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/2/15 1:59 PM

While the spring and summer months are the most popular time of year to buy or list a home, the real estate market is open 365 days a year. If you missed the summer homebuying season, fall is still a great time to buy a home for the following reasons.

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8 Reasons Why Now Is a Smart Time to Buy a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/1/15 2:34 PM

There is no doubt about it; it's getting more and more expensive to write out a monthly rent check. If you've been thinking about purchasing a home, here are eight good reasons why you should buy sooner than later.

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Who's Who in the Home Financing Process

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/29/15 2:02 AM

Buying a home is a big deal. While homebuyers primarily work with their mortgage banker through the loan process, there are a lot of key players who have large roles in seeing a mortgage go from pre-approved to closed. Here are a few of the professionals that play a part in the loan process.

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A Timeline of Pre-Approvals vs. Loan Commitments (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/28/15 11:30 AM

Meeting with a mortgage lender should always be your first step in homebuying. While shopping with a pre-approval is better than shopping without, a loan commitment can give homebuyers a consistent head start against other buyers while expediting the loan process. Here's a how a loan commitment differs from a standard pre-approval.

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How to Get $7,500 in Down Payment Assistance with 1stHomeIllinois

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/17/15 11:19 AM

With interest rates near historic lows, rental rates climbing 3.5 percent in the last 12 months, and the availability of down payment and closing cost assistance programs, there’s no better time to be a first-time homebuyer. Here's how the Illinois Housing Development Authority's new loan program is making homeownership even more enticing for first-timers.

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7 Tips for Finding a Great Real Estate Agent

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/12/15 11:53 AM

While meeting with a mortgage lender should be the first step in the homebuying process, choosing a real estate professional is essential to your homebuying (or selling) experience. Here are several ways to narrow down your options for a qualified, compatible real estate agent.

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4 Things to Know Before Buying a Home in a Homeowners' Association

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/11/15 1:17 PM

So you want to purchase a home in a community with a homeowners’ association. Many homebuyers love the idea of enforced community appearance, included maintenance like snow removal, recreational amenities, and association management, but here are a few things you should consider when planning to purchase a home within an HOA.

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The Cost of a Mortgage Over Time (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/3/15 4:27 PM

Interest rates are still near historic lows, and if you've been on the fence about buying a home, there may not be a better time than now. See how interest rates have affected mortgage affordability on a $200,000 loan over the last four decades.

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New First-Time Homebuyer Loan: IHDA's FirstHomeIllinois

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/28/15 3:24 PM

With interest rates near historic lows, rental rates climbing 3.5 percent in the last 12 months, and the availability of down payment and closing cost assistance programs, there’s no better time to be a first-time homebuyer. Here's how the Illinois Housing Development Authority's new loan program is making homeownership even more enticing for first-timers.

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Who Is the Millennial Homebuyer? (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/27/15 9:59 AM

Millennials are an often misunderstood and highly-discussed generation. This age group represents the largest generation in the U.S. with 1/3 of the nation's population in 2013. Millennials are a highly-watched group in the housing market because of their different needs, wants and homebuying obstacles. Here's what one study found about Millennial homebuyers in 2014.

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8 Things Millennials Want in a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/22/15 1:12 PM

The Millennial generation represents the largest share of homebuyers, according to a generational trends report by the National Association of REALTORS®. Weighing in at 32 percent of homebuyers, millennials are looking for different needs in a home than their predecessors. According to REALTOR Magazine®, these are the top wants of millennial homebuyers.

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5 Common First-Time Homeowner Mistakes

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/17/15 8:00 AM

As a new homeowner there are a variety of things to learn about properly maintaining a home. While you'll want to dive into making your home and yard your own with DIY projects and home maintenance, there are a few classic no's new homeowners commit. Here's a list of critically important things not to do as a new homeowner.

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Mortgage 101: Are Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Services Worth It?

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/15/15 9:32 AM

After you closed on your home loan, did you start receiving mail about bi-weekly mortgage payment services? You know, the services that claim to save you thousands of dollars while shaving years off the life of your loan? Some of these bi-weekly mortgage payment services recently came under scrutiny for deceptive mortgage practices by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Here's what you need to know before signing up for a service like this.

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Mortgage 101: What's a Lender Credit?

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/10/15 11:53 AM

With average closing costs ranging from 2 to 5 percent of a home's purchase price, gathering the funds to close can be a major hurdle for first-time homebuyers. This is where lender credits come into play.

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Mortgage 101: What's the Difference Between My Interest Rate and APR?

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/9/15 10:37 AM

When shopping for a mortgage or any type of credit product, for that matter, keep in mind that the advertised interest rate isn't the same as your loan's annual percentage rate (APR). Here's what you should know about the difference between a mortgage interest rate and APR.

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Mortgage 101: Why Compass Doesn't Advertise Interest Rates

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/8/15 3:34 PM

Mortgage interest rate trackers are becoming more commonplace on the web. You're likely to see them when you pull up a home search on a national real estate portal or if you do a web search of mortgage interest rates. One of the first questions homebuyers ask is what the available interest rate is, so why don't we advertise them on our website? Here's the answer.

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Mortgage 101: 4 Questions Borrowers Frequently Ask Mortgage Bankers

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/29/15 2:52 PM

It goes without saying that buying or refinancing a home comes with a lot of questions. After all, a home is likely the largest purchase you will make in your lifetime. Our mortgage bankers at Compass compiled a list of questions their borrowers ask on a regular basis. Here are the answers.

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7 Things to Know About the HomeStyle® Renovation Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/24/15 2:23 PM

TV shows like Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict can inspire homebuyers to purchase a home in need of renovations or rehab and make it into their own, but they leave out a very technical part of the process: financing the renovations. Fannie Mae's HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage allows purchase and refinance borrowers to include financing for home improvements into the transaction of an existing home. Here's what you need to know about this renovation loan.

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Information to Gather When Applying for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/11/15 1:03 PM

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will ask for various documents to verify the information you provided on your mortgage application. To avoid stalling the loan process, it's a good idea to have these documents gathered beforehand.

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First-Time Homebuyers: How to Build & Improve Credit to Buy a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/10/15 1:33 PM

Preparation to buy a home should start long before walking through a potential home option. The first step to buying a home should always be meeting with a mortgage lender to determine where you stand in eligibility for a home loan. But what if your credit score, a critical piece of the homebuying puzzle, doesn't make the cut?

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The Cost of Buying Versus Renting

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/27/15 2:09 PM

In 2014, U.S. renters collectively paid over $441 billion in rent, up nearly 5 percent or $20.6 billion from 2013, according to a report done by Zillow. Rent inflation hit its highest acceleration rate in six years in November 2014 and is expected to increase 4 more percent by the end of 2015. If you are on the fence about buying a home, this is infographic lays out what the price of renting vs. buying is today.

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Memorial Day 2015: What You Should Know About VA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/25/15 10:24 AM

Service men and women and their families make many sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a token of appreciation, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has provided a program with a mission to help servicemen, servicewomen, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners.

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: Why Do You Need So Much Documentation?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/23/15 4:03 PM

Homebuyers often have various questions regarding the loan process, specifically why they have to provide so much paperwork to coincide with their mortgage loan application.

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: Why Do I Need to Provide Documentation for Gift Funds?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/22/15 9:04 AM

Many first-time homebuyers who do not have the funds available for a down payment receive a gifted sum of money from family members to be used toward their home purchase. Though gift funds often enable many homebuyers to make their first purchase, the process of documenting that gift goes past simply depositing that money into your bank account.

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Mortgage 101: Do I Need to Meet with My Mortgage Banker in Person?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/20/15 9:01 AM

Technology has optimized and changed the way consumers shop for products, including mortgages. Between work, commuting, family, etc. homebuyers sometimes struggle to find the time meet with their loan officer, which begs the question do you need to meet with your loan officer in person?

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Mortgage 101: Broker, Bank & Mortgage Banker - What's the Difference?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/19/15 9:00 AM

When applying for a mortgage, choosing the right lender can save you time, frustration, and in many cases, money. So when you decide to apply are all lenders - mortgage bankers, brokers, and banks - created equal? Here's how they compare.

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7 Things to Do Before Moving into Your New Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/16/15 9:00 AM

Your belongings are boxed up, the moving truck is scheduled and you've recruited family and friends to help unload on moving day. Moving to a new home is an exciting time, but before you start unloading the moving truck, here's a list of to-do items you should take care of before you fill your new home with boxes.

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First-Time Homebuyer FAQ: How Are Mortgage Interest Rates Determined?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/13/15 10:05 AM

If you are a homebuyer seeking a mortgage, a big part of when you decide to buy and which lender you choose to finance with will likely depend on what mortgage rates are doing. Your mortgage rate not only affects the amount of interest you will pay over the life of your mortgage but can also influence the amount you are approved to finance, as well as your affordability of homeownership overall.

So how are mortgage rates determined? And why do they change?

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Homebuyer FAQ: Why Do You Ask for so Much Personal Information?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/12/15 9:10 AM

Bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs - why is your mortgage banker asking for so much information? What does it have to do with your home loan? Isn't it an invasion of your privacy? Homebuyers often ask why their mortgage banker needs so much personal information in order to process and approve their mortgage application. Here's why.

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Mortgage Goals: 5 Ways to Cool Down Your Cooling Costs

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/10/15 4:31 PM

Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Those costs typically account for about 48% of your utility bill. While an upgraded, energy-efficient system will help shave a nice chunk off of your bills, a whole-house approach is best when trying to cool down your A/C costs this spring and summer.

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15 Ingenious Moving Hacks and Tips

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/9/15 12:00 PM

Moving to a new home can be an exciting time - until you actually have to move. Organize, pack, label, lift, repeat may not be your favorite activity, so we've compiled a list of ingenious moving hacks to help rid some of the anxiety, stress and time-consuming tasks that come with packing up your life's belongings.

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Mortgage 101: Step-by-Step of the Loan Process

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/8/15 10:00 AM

To reach full loan approval, your loan application goes through various steps of verification, documentation, processing, and underwriting before your closing date. Check out the step-by-step process of your loan from application to closing. 

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Financing Home Improvements: FHA 203k vs. Conventional

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/7/15 9:00 AM

As with any home loan, conventional and FHA 203k loans fill unique needs for different homebuyers and different home purchases. If you are already familiar with an FHA 203k loan, you know that it's an option for homebuyers and homeowners looking to finance home renovations into their mortgage. While conventional loans typically only finance the purchase of a home, there is a Fannie Mae HomePath® Renovation Loan that works similarly to a 203k loan.

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FHA vs. FHA Streamline

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/23/15 10:15 AM

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is the largest insurer of residential mortgages in the world. It was founded by Congress in the 1930's in response to a rash of defaults and foreclosures. Since its creation, the FHA has helped 4.8 million families achieve homeownership by providing affordable and accessible financing to borrowers and adequate insurance for lenders, like Compass Mortgage.

FHA

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Value to Your Home with Landscaping

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/19/15 8:30 AM

A good investment for your home is one that significantly increases home value and guarantees a substantial return on your financial stake. Proper landscaping is one of the few home improvements that not only add values immediately but appreciates over time and will help a listed home sell faster.

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Finding the Right Home Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/17/15 8:00 AM

Homebuying comes with an immense amount of choices. You need to choose a realtor, a neighborhood, a house, a lender, and a loan type. Like home styles, there are dozens of home loan types and programs meant to appeal and benefit a wide range of homebuyers.

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Millennials: The Homebuying vs. Renting Comparison

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/16/15 8:00 AM

The Millennial generation is doing a lot of things differently than their predecessors. They're waiting longer to get married and start families and are slow to embark on a large part of the American Dream: homeownership.

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Mortgage 101: What Happens at the Closing Table

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/14/15 9:19 AM

It's the day you've been waiting for since making your decision to purchase a home, got approved for home financing and signed your purchase agreement: closing day. Your loan's closing is the last piece of the puzzle; the day the formalities of your real estate transaction are concluded. Here's what happens when you close on your home.

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What's the Difference Between an FHA and Conventional Appraisal?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/7/15 8:00 AM

In all cases in which a mortgage loan is used to purchase a home, your lender will require an appraisal of the home. Appraisals are used by lenders to determine a property’s value to protect their and their homebuyer’s investment. Home appraisals come in different varieties based on the type of financing used for the home, including conventional mortgage loan appraisals and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) appraisals.

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Mortgage 101: When is the Best Time to List Your Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/5/15 8:00 AM

People buy homes year-round, but when it comes to putting your home up for sale, is there an optimal time to list? According to an analysis of supply, demand and seller’s outcomes in “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate”, the “magic window” to list your home is between mid-March and mid-April.

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Mortgage Goals: What an Extra Yearly Payment Could Do for Your Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/4/15 8:00 AM

When you receive your monthly mortgage statement, you may have noticed the option of paying more than your required monthly payment. While paying extra principal on your mortgage won't decrease your required monthly payment like a credit card payment, there are several perks of making an extra annual mortgage payment.

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What is the @HomeIllinois Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/3/15 8:00 AM

The Illinois Housing Development Authority new mortgage program @HomeIllinois strives to make homeownership affordable and obtainable for both first-time and repeat homebuyers by providing a la carte benefits, including down payment assistance and lender paid mortgage insurance.

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7 Things Not to Do After Applying for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/1/15 8:00 AM

When applying for home financing your actions regarding credit score, finances and employment not only apply to pre-approval but the time between loan processing and closing. Avoid making these common mistakes while waiting for closing day.

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How to Find Parks, Playground and Outdoor Recreation Near Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/31/15 9:10 AM

With the weather warming up, you may be looking for new activities for you and your family to take part in. Whether you are adventurists or outdoor lovers or simply in need of a new playground for the kids to enjoy, here are a few ways to find fresh-air recreation near your home.

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New FHA Mortgage Insurance Reduction: How Much Can You Save?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/30/15 1:00 PM

It’s now cheaper to get an FHA loan due to changes announced by the Federal Housing Administration in January 2015. The FHA made a significant reduction to mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) on all new FHA loans for the first time since 2001.

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7 Things to Consider When Buying Rental Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/28/15 12:00 PM

Just like buying a primary home, investing in a rental property requires a lot of consideration, research, and decision-making to guarantee a positive return of investment. Though these tasks may seem daunting to a first-time real estate investor, they are essential to making sure your property will generate the revenue you desire.

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Using Your Phone to Find a Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/27/15 12:21 PM

Over the past decade, homebuyers have become increasingly digital in their search for prospective properties. In fact, 9 out of 10 homebuyers use the web as one of their primary research sources, according to a study performed by the National Association of Realtors and Google. So in a world increasingly dependent on mobile technology, which mobile apps are best for potential homebuyers? Here are a few options to help make your home search a little easier on the go.

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Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/24/15 8:00 AM

If you are a golf pro, outdoor enthusiast, beachgoer or theme park lover, at least one of these vacation spots will appeal to you. Even more appealing, the home prices! According to Zillow’s “Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home” list, these are the top four spots based on location, price and investment potential.

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FHA Loans Better than Ever for First-Time Homebuyers in 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/20/15 8:00 AM

This year’s first-time homebuyers are currently set up for the optimal time to buy a home. Not only are mortgage rates near record lows but changes to FHA loans are increasing affordability for first-time buyers.

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IHDA's Releases New Mortgage Product @HomeIllinois

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/15/15 7:30 AM

The Illinois Housing Development Authority has unveiled their new mortgage product, @HomeIllinois. The new program strives to make homeownership affordable and obtainable to creditworthy borrowers by offering a la carte benefits, including down payment assistance and lender paid mortgage insurance, to both first-time and repeat homebuyers.

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Mortgage 101: Five Simple Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/10/15 8:00 AM

Your credit score is a big component of your finances. Lenders and credit card companies use your score as a risk assessment to determine whether you can achieve financing or a new line of credit and to determine the interest rate you receive. Though there is no guaranteed quick fix to boosting your score, here are a few simple ways to push your score in the right direction.

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What Types of Insurance Are Needed to Buy a Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/6/15 11:46 AM

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will make in your lifetime, so protecting your assets is a must as a homeowner. There are several different types of insurance associated with purchasing a home, some of which you have control over and others required by your mortgage lender to protect their collateral.

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Mortgage Goals: Setting Goals for Your Investment Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/5/15 10:08 AM

Real estate investment is just like any other business; it requires a plan to measure success.  Whether you are an amateur real estate investor beginning with your first rental home or in the works of developing multiple properties to flip, setting goals is an essential part of becoming a successful real estate investor. Determine the who, what, when, where, why and how for each property.

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Mortgage 101: What Is Amortization & How Does It Affect Your Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/3/15 10:51 AM

One of the biggest perks of a fixed-rate mortgage is the consistent monthly payment. While a borrower’s fixed-rate monthly mortgage payment remains the same for the life of the loan, the amount of payment going toward the loan’s principal and interest varies monthly as it is paid down. This is known as amortization.

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Mortgage Goals: How Much Equity Will You Gain from Owning a Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/26/15 4:02 PM

Equity, which can be defined as the difference between your loan balance and the fair market value of your home, is a huge perk of being a homebuyer. You can gain it simply by making your monthly payments; and you can also borrow from it via a cash-out refinance to help pay for major life expenses. How much equity you gain (and how quickly you gain it) from homeownership, however, is dependent on several factors.

 

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Buying After Foreclosure or Short Sale: The Boomerang Buyer

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/25/15 4:30 PM

The first wave of homeowners who lost their homes due to foreclosure or short sale during the Great Recession are eligible to re-enter the housing market this year.

7.3 million former homeowners have the potential to become homeowners again over the next eight years, according to real estate research firm RealtyTrac. This group of possible homebuyers – mostly Generation Xers or Baby Boomers, age 35-70 – have been dubbed “boomerang buyers”.

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Mortgage 101: Mortgage Insurance - Conventional vs. FHA

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/24/15 4:00 PM

As the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the lowering of annual FHA mortgage insurance premiums for the first time since 2001, they also projected the change would spur 250,000 homebuyers to purchase their first home over the next three years.

We know the half-percent drop in FHA’s mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) will widen the pool of home affordability for buyers, but how does it compare to conventional loan mortgage insurance?

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Mortgage Goals: Why and How to Avoid Mortgage Insurance

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/11/15 4:08 PM

If you put a down payment on a home that is less than 20 percent of the appraised value or sale price, you are obligated to purchase mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance, or MI, is also sometimes referred to as private mortgage insurance, or PMI, to distinguish it from FHA and VA insurance, which insures certain governmental programs.

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Mortgage 101: How We, as a Mortgage Company, Determine Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/10/15 9:00 AM

Your credit score is a number lenders use to determine the risk of lending to you. Credit card companies, auto dealerships and mortgage bankers are just a few of the institutions that will assess your credit score before deciding if and how much they are willing to lend you, and at what interest rate. When it comes to getting pre-approved for a mortgage, your credit score is one of the most influential factors determining your eligibility for a loan and what rate you will qualify for.

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Buy Instead of Rent: Why 2015 is The Year to Buy

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/6/15 3:31 PM

In 2014, U.S. renters collectively paid over $441 billion in rent, up nearly 5 percent or $20.6 billion from 2013, according to a report done by Zillow. Annual rent inflation also hit 3.5% in November 2014, the highest rent acceleration in six years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and it is projected to increase 4 (more) percent in 2015. The average monthly lease rate is now $1,124, according to data collected by Reis, Inc. This is the highest number since Reis started collecting and analyzing commercial real estate market stats in 1980. Nationally, half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, according to a 2013 report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

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Mortgage 101: New FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium Reduction

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/3/15 11:48 AM

Not only are FHA mortgage rates at near record lows, but for the first time since 2001, the FHA has reduced its mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) for many U.S. homeowners. Effective as of January 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lowered annual FHA mortgage insurance premiums by 50 basis points from 1.35% to .85% on their 30-year fixed mortgages for new FHA loans of $625,000 or less. 


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Mortgage Goals: Understanding the Costs of Rehab

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/29/15 2:54 PM

It is always difficult to estimate home renovation costs since it is a flexible number, depending on various different factors. Every remodeling project is unique, and costs vary depending on your budget, tastes, and priorities. According to Better Homes and Gardens, in general, materials will account for 80 percent of your budget, while labor costs represent the last 20 percent.

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Mortgage 101: Benefits of Paying Additional Principal on Your Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/15/15 8:45 AM

When you receive your mortgage statement each month, you may have noticed the option to pay more than your required monthly payment. As you pay down your mortgage balance, your monthly payment won’t decrease like a credit card payment would – so why pay extra?

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Mortgage 101: Rents Still on the Rise in 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/13/15 10:00 AM

If you’ve been on the fence between buying a home and renewing your rental lease, 2015 may be a good time to explore the possibilities of homeownership. As supply of rental housing remains limited, U.S. renters can expect to shell out a significant amount more in monthly rent.

In 2014, U.S. renters collectively paid over $441 billion in rent, up nearly 5 percent or $20.6 billion from 2013, according to a Zillow report. Those figures indicate that on average, $26 more per month was spent by every U.S. renter in 2014.

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Mortgage Goals: 5 Resolutions for Homebuyers in 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/8/15 10:00 AM

If buying a home is on the docket as one of your 2015 goals, it’s a good idea to have the following items in line before diving into the world of homebuying. Set yourself up for the best home buying and financing experience by accomplishing these five homebuyer resolutions. 

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Mortgage 101: Five Ways to Minimize Your Closing Costs

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/6/15 10:00 AM

When you purchase a home using a mortgage, you are not only incurring the costs of the home itself but costs related to the actual purchase of the home, known as closing costs. These fees charged by your lender and third parties related to your home purchase typically range from 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price of a home. 

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Mortgage Goals: Finding The Right Housing Style

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/1/15 3:20 PM

As if making the choice to buy or build a home isn’t a big enough feat, you also need to decide what style of home best fits your needs, now and in the future. Before you start your home search, make a list of characteristics you desire in your home, whether they are functional or aesthetic.

Here is a list of some of the top housing styles in the United States and what defines them.

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Why My First House Is a Townhouse

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/31/14 1:11 PM

If you look at today’s younger generations, especially Millennials, they are taking longer than ever before to get to certain “milestones” in their lives.  This includes such things as getting married, having kids and buying homes.  Since they are taking longer than previous generations, there is added pressure as we get older to get to “that next step.”

Purchasing a home can be a taunting task to anyone, regardless of their age, but as a 30-year old, single woman there’s an even greater pressure. Picking out the right type of housing was very important to one of our employees, Kim, since she wanted to feel comfortable with the monthly mortgage payment, but also wanted enough space for her and her three year old dog.  What she ended up eventually buying was a two-bedroom townhouse. 

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Mortgage 101: How Are Mortgage Rates Determined?

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/30/14 11:00 AM

If you are a homebuyer seeking a mortgage, a big part of when you decide to buy and which lender you choose to finance with will likely depend on what mortgage rates are doing. Your mortgage rate not only affects the amount of interest you will pay over the life of your mortgage but can also influence the amount you are approved to finance, as well as your affordability of homeownership overall.

So how are mortgage rates determined? And why do they change?

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Mortgage Goals: Buying vs. Renting - A 7 Year Comparison

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/25/14 4:00 PM

To rent or to buy? That is the (important) question. And it should be – choosing to buy a home is most likely the biggest financial decision of your lifetime. Choosing between a home purchase and a rental is also a highly personal decision, so here’s what we currently about the dilemma to help you come to the best choice.

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The Return of the 3% Down Mortgage: Fannie Mae's MyCommunityMortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/24/14 10:00 AM

Many homebuyers cite saving funds for a down payment as one of their biggest obstacles on their path to homeownership. Fannie Mae has introduced the MyCommunityMortgage® program which features flexible home financing with as little as 3 percent down, opening the gates to homeownership for potential homebuyers with a lack of funds for a down payment.

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Mortgage 101: How Is a Home Appraisal Calculated?

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/23/14 10:50 AM

You’ve been pre-approved for home financing, found your dream home, and made an accepted offer of $220,000; now what? Whether you are buying a home, refinancing your mortgage, settling a legal issue, or appealing property taxes, the value of the property in question needs to be determined through a home appraisal. 

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Rental Properties to Your Retirement Portfolio

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/18/14 4:30 PM

\When it comes to building your investment portfolio, it’s a good idea to have a diversified amount of income-generators. According to a 2014 Gallup survey, 30 percent of Americans said real estate is the best type of long-term investment over gold, stocks, and mutual funds.

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Mortgage 101: 7 Common Credit Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/16/14 10:00 AM

As society becomes more dependent on the use of credit cards, your credit score becomes more important than ever. Insurers, banks, utility companies, employers, etc. use your credit score and history as a means of determining your financial reliability and responsibility.

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Mortgage 101: Breaking Down Closing Costs

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/9/14 10:51 AM

When you get a mortgage, you will likely be paying closing costs at the finalization of your purchase or refinance. These fees are charged by your lender and third parties that have performed services related to your home purchase. Typical closing costs range from 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price of a home.

 Breaking_Down_Closing_Costs

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Mortgage Goals: How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment to Buy a House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/4/14 5:13 PM

A large amount of homebuyers cite saving funds for a down payment as their biggest hurdle in the home buying process. Contrary to popular belief, the need for a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home is no longer the status quo. 

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Mortgage 101: What is a Title Company?

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/2/14 4:30 PM

Buying a home is a lot different than your typical, everyday purchase. Not only is a home a more expensive purchase but the way in which you convey ownership of a home purchase differs as well. This is where a title company’s role comes into play.

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Mortgage Goals: What to Expect on an Online Loan Application

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/27/14 10:00 AM

Technology has changed the way consumers buy products, even when it comes to homebuying. The majority of prospective buyers start their housing search online; buyers can now start the home financing process online, as well. Reaching your mortgage goals starts with completing a pre-approval or loan application.

Whether you are completing a request for a pre-approval, which requires a substantially smaller amount of information, or submitting a full loan application, here are a few things you should be prepared to provide:

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Mortgage 101: Understanding Different Loan Types

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/25/14 2:30 PM

Homebuying comes with an immense amount of choices. You need to choose a realtor, a neighborhood, a house, a lender, and a loan type. Like home styles, there are dozens of loan types and programs meant to appeal and benefit a wide range of homebuyers.

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Mortgage Goals: What Goes Into a Mortgage Payment?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/20/14 10:00 AM

Understanding your mortgage payment is as easy as remembering four letters – P, I, T & I. The mortgage industry uses the acronym PITI, which stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance, to break down the components of homeowners’ mortgage payments.

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Mortgage 101: What is a Freddie Mac Home Possible® Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/18/14 10:00 AM

Making homeownership affordable to a wide range of borrowers is the goal of Freddie Mac’s Home Possible® mortgage program. By offering significant flexibility and benefits to borrowers, Home Possible® appeals to first-time homebuyers, move-up borrowers, low- to moderate-income borrowers, retirees, families in underserved areas, and new immigrants.

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Completing Your Loan Application Checklist

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/13/14 10:00 AM

Completing your loan application is one of the first steps in achieving home financing. Depending on the lender, you will either fill out an application in person with your loan officer, online or over the phone.

Your lender will also ask for information to verify your employment, funds, and the home you are wishing to finance. Use this loan application checklist to prepare the necessary documents for the process: 

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Mortgage 101: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/11/14 12:00 PM

Credit scores are a huge part of the loan pre-approval process. It not only determines your eligibility for home financing but can also determine what rate you will qualify for. Why? Because your credit score is used to determine how risk y of a borrower you are.

Lenders use your median score from the three national credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. This number is known as your FICO score and can range from 300 to 850.  The lower your score, the higher risk borrower you are. 

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Mortgage Goals: Townhome, Condo or House?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/6/14 5:00 PM

Homebuying is a journey of decision-making. You choose your real estate agent, your desired location, your mortgage lender, your loan program, your insurance agent, etc. When it comes to picking the type of home you purchase (condominium, townhouse or house), there are several factors that should come into play.

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Mortgage 101: Five Benefits of USDA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/4/14 10:00 AM

Did you know you can buy a house without putting a single dollar down on the closing table? Though it sounds too good to be true, the United States Department of Agriculture Guaranteed Rural Development Loan, also known as a UDSA or rural development loan, helps potential homebuyers become homeowners with several perks unheard of with different loan programs.

Here are five ways a USDA loan benefits homebuyers. 

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Mortgage Goals: Saving Money vs. Renting

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/30/14 10:00 AM

There is a reason homeownership is such a big part of the American Dream. With a home purchase, homeowners gain a sense of community and pride in their homes, a secure, permanent place of residence, and freedom to customize their living space on their own terms. Among lifestyle benefits, owning a home also helps owners reach one of the most beneficial mortgage goals: saving money.

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Mortgage 101: What is a Rehab Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/28/14 10:00 AM

Finding a home that meets your criteria can be exhausting. Perhaps you like the style and nostalgia of an older home but desire the efficiency and updates of newer construction models. Or perhaps you’ve found the perfect home, but it’s in need of some major TLC. That’s where rehab loans come into play for today’s homebuyers.

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Mortgage Goals: Becoming a Landlord

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/23/14 10:00 AM

Looking for a long-term, stable income generator with a large return on your investment? With home affordability at record highs, a booming rental market, and appreciating home values, investing in residential real estate could be a great opportunity for you to earn extra revenue and expand your mortgage goals.

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Reinventing the American Dream: Location and the Millennial Homebuyer

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/22/14 4:13 PM

The classic Buy vs. Rent battle is something that all young adults have to combat as they enter into the "real world."  Investing in property can be a great financial decision, but as the Millennial generation continues to wait longer to get married and start families, they also are less inclined to actually buy a home as well.  According to U.S. News & World Report, "Homeownership for Americans 35 and under declined to 36.2 percent, and is the lowest on record since the census's Housing Vacancy Survey began tabulating homeownership by age in 1982."  One out-of-the-box idea that has been gaining popularity is for people to buy their first home and then have roommates that pay rent to cover their mortgage payments.

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Mortgage 101: What is a VA Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/21/14 10:00 AM

Service men and women and their families make many sacrifices to keep our country safe. As a token of appreciation, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has provided a program with a mission to help servicemen, servicewomen, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners.

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What You Need To Know About Realtors - Guest Expert Lance Kammes of Re/Max Suburban

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/17/14 9:10 AM

Lance Kammes is a Realtor with Re/Max Suburban and has been working with us here at Compass since we opened in 1999 to help clients find a great home. 

We asked Lance to be our guest expert this week and answer some key questions about real estate and Realtors that many people often have when applying for a loan.

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Mortgage Goals: Homeowner Tax Deductions & Write-Offs

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/16/14 12:00 PM

Homeownership has long been a part of the American Dream. Why wouldn’t it be? Not only do homeowners reap in lifestyle perks with their owned homes but financial benefits as well – particularly around tax time.

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Reinventing the American Dream: Condo & Townhome Living

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/15/14 10:00 AM

The days of white picket fences, yards for the dog and huge living spaces in the suburbs are not gone, but they may be less desirable to the new millennial generation.  These individuals are waiting longer than ever before to get married, have kids and buy houses, sometimes even doing it as single entity.  For a group that is constantly on the go, wants many conveniences at their fingertips and desires less responsibility, condo or townhome living might be the new housing of choice.

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Mortgage 101: What is an FHA Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/14/14 10:00 AM

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is the largest insurer of residential mortgages in the world. Often referred to as a “first-time homebuyer loan” because of the low down payment requirement, FHA loans have been helping first-time and repeat buyers become homeowners since 1934.

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What You Need To Know About Mortgage Insurance - Lou Mallers of Essent Guaranty, Inc.

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/10/14 10:00 AM

Lou Mallers is an Account Manager with Essent and has been working with us here at Compass for many years on finding our clients great options for Mortgage Insurance (MI). 

We asked Lou to be our professional guest expert this week and answer some key questions about Mortgage Insurance that many people often have when applying for a loan.

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Reinventing the American Dream: Buy Your 2nd Home First

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/8/14 10:00 AM

According to TIME Magazine, “In a new pole, 38% of Millennials say travel is part of the American Dream.”  They also say that millennials consider owning a home much less part of the American Dream than the generations before them, i.e. Baby Boomers and Gen X.  So it brings up an interesting concept, what if maybe you should buy your 2nd home, or vacation home, before buying your first primary residence?

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Mortgage 101: What is a Conventional Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/7/14 10:00 AM

With the vast array of mortgage products on the market, as a potential homebuyer you may be asking yourself: “which one is right for me?” The tried-and-true conventional loan is a great mortgage to consider depending on your current financial and credit situation and your homeownership goals.

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3 Reasons to Buy a Home in the Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/3/14 4:00 PM

The real estate market is open 365 days a year, but a common real estate myth claims that the spring and summer seasons are the best times to buy a home. Though homebuyers combat pending winter weather conditions and the start of the school year, there are several good reasons to buy a home in the fall.

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Mortgage 101: How to Improve Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/12/14 9:00 AM

If you have applied for any type of loan in the past, you know that your credit score determines a large part of your eligibility for approval. Lenders use your credit score as a numerical indication of your financial responsibility. Your credit score can determine your interest rate, the amount you are approved to borrow, or whether you can be approved at all.

If there is room for improvement in your credit history, follow these do’s and don’ts to help raise your credit score. 

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Mortgage 101: USDA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/5/14 2:22 PM

If someone told you there was a home loan that required no down payment and boasted a lower-than-market interest rate and low monthly private mortgage insurance rate, would you believe them?

The United States Department of Agriculture partners with approved local lenders, like Compass Mortgage, to extend 100% financing to eligible borrowers. The USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan, also known as a USDA or rural development loan, was designed to help individuals and families achieve homeownership in rural areas across the United States. 

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What is a Mortgage Calculator?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/29/14 3:04 PM

What is a Mortgage Calculator?

First-time and repeat homebuyers often share a common question when it comes to purchasing a home: how much can I afford?

In an effort to make the beginning steps of home buying simpler, we provide mortgage calculators to homebuyers to make their purchase decision easier, as well as a refinance calculator for current homeowners to weigh the benefits of refinancing their loan.

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Loan Application Checklist

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/22/14 10:00 AM

Your loan application is one of the first steps to getting the ball rolling on your home financing. You can fill out a loan application in person with your mortgage banker, or depending on the lender, you can start the process over the phone or online. If you’ve already been pre-approved, you may have filled out some of the application details with your mortgage banker already.

To complete your loan application, your lender will ask for information regarding employment, finances, and the home you are purchasing. Be prepared to provide the following documentation and information:

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3 Tips to Buying Rental Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/15/14 11:00 AM

With mortgage rates at historic lows and favorable home prices, the housing market has seen a boom in investment property purchases over the last few years. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, investment-home purchases accounted for 24 percent of all sales in 2012 and approximately 16 percent in 2013.

Real estate can be a lucrative investment if planned and purchased properly. If you have been entertaining the idea of getting into real estate investing, here are a few things to consider before diving into the process.

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Mortgage Loan Process

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/1/14 3:32 PM

To reach full loan approval, your loan application goes through various steps of verification, documentation, processing, and underwriting before your closing date. Check out the step-by-step process of your loan from application to closing.

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Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance (PITI)

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/25/14 2:51 PM

During the mortgage process, you may see the acronym “PITI” in reference to your monthly mortgage payment. “PITI” stands for the sum of monthly principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. PITI can also include homeowners association fees, if applicable. 

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Purchasing a Foreclosure (Rehab Loans)

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/18/14 3:36 PM

Most buyers associate buying a foreclosure with getting a home for an extremely reasonable price. Though that assumption can be true, there is also a good amount of risk in buying a foreclosed property.

Approximately 5 million homes have gone through foreclosure in the last half decade since the housing market collapsed. To make sure purchasing a foreclosed home is the right path for you, hire a good buying agent, one who is preferably familiar with the foreclosure process, and read through the following tips of the purchase process.

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What You Should Know About FHA Loans

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/11/14 4:12 PM

The Federal Housing Administration, known as “FHA”, provides insurance on loans made through FHA-approved lenders, such as Compass Mortgage. The FHA is the largest insurer of mortgages in the world, insuring over 34 million properties since its creation in 1934.

How an FHA Loan Can Benefit You

Typically, an FHA loan is one of the easiest types of loans to acquire. Here are some of the biggest advantages to an FHA loan: 

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VA Loan Basics

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/3/14 3:16 PM

As you celebrate Independence Day this weekend, remember the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, fighting for our freedoms.

The VA Loan was established in 1944 when the GI Bill was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The program was built to help servicemen who had missed an opportunity to build credit and a financial nest egg while away at war.

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Summer Home Buying

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/27/14 3:43 PM

The most popular months to purchase a home are March through July. Homebuyers are likely to find a larger selection of homes on the market. Typically, more homes on the market mean more buyers; more buyers mean more competition. As you read through the pros and cons of summer buying, think about why a purchase in the summer months may or may not be the best option for you.

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Mortgage Glossary

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/20/14 2:41 PM

Applying for a mortgage is a big financial decision. The financing process and terminology can be confusing at times for both first-time and repeat homebuyers. Get definitions on mortgage terms that are likely to come up throughout your loan process from our mortgage glossary.

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How to Check Your Loan Status

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/13/14 10:32 AM

One of the many benefits of working with Compass Mortgage on your home financing is your ability as a borrower to stay informed on the status of your loan at all times. Through our website, our clients can get the current status of their loan through a secure login ID and password. This information is updated every day to keep our clients informed from the point of application to final loan approval.

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Traditional Loan Options

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/6/14 10:04 AM

There are an infinite amount of loan types and options for today’s borrowers, which brings up the age-old question: “Which mortgage is right for me?” Fixed or adjustable rate? 30-year or 15-year term? Government-backed or conventional? Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, and you should explore what option will fit your budget and future plans. When looking for the right mortgage loan, you will essentially be choosing loan options within two different types of financing: government-backed or conventional financing.

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How to Get a USDA Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/30/14 2:56 PM

A USDA loan, formally known as the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan program, is insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA loan program is used primarily to help individuals and families purchase a home in rural areas across the United States.

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The Quickest Way to Get Approved for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/25/14 3:52 PM

The first step in home buying has little to do with scouting potential homes to purchase and everything to do with making sure you are eligible for a home loan. Meeting with a lender to acquire a pre-approval and/or loan commitment prior to your home search will give you the confidence of knowing how much house you can afford. It will also give you a leg up when the time comes to make an offer, as well as expedite the loan process.

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Down Payment Assistance

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/18/14 9:34 AM

A major hurdle for some first-time home buyers is coming up with funds for a down payment or closing costs. Homebuyers can still get mortgages with little to no money down through multiple programs funded by state authorities, such as the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and Iowa Finance Authority (IFA).

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What Type of Housing is Right for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/4/14 11:33 AM

Determining what type of housing is right for you can prove to be a difficult task. Because you cannot always control or predict when a job promotion, out-of-state move, marriage, birth of a child, etc. will occur, it is important to choose what fits your needs and budget in the present moment and factor in what could happen in the next 5-10 years.

Types of housing include single-family detached homes, condominiums, duplexes and townhomes. Consider the following when looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each:

  • Privacy & Responsibility – Is it important to you to have complete privacy and control over decision-making or are you willing to share amenities and decisions with neighbors?
  • Maintenance – Are you someone who enjoys yard work and routine home maintenance or would you rather have someone on hand to take care of these tasks?
  • Budget – How much do you have to spend?
  • Family Size – Are you okay with living in tight quarters or do you need space to move about freely? Are you hoping to start a family in the near future or are you empty-nesters?
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How Much Mortgage Can I Afford?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/14/14 10:27 AM

Purchasing a home is likely the largest financial decision you will make in your lifetime. A pre-approval with a lender will give you an idea of the amount you could be loaned, but determining how much home you can afford weighs on multiple factors, including what you’re comfortable paying and your financial plans.

Most lenders recommend that your mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes and mortgage insurance (Known as PITI), be less than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. Lenders will also analyze your debt-to-income ratio, which includes your monthly obligations such as: credit card minimum payments, student loans, alimony, child support, and car loans along with PITI. Lenders look at this to ideally be at or below 36 percent of your gross monthly income.

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Preparing to Sell Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/28/14 8:37 AM

A first impression is key to selling your home. Most buyers make their purchase based on first-sight emotions and then justify their decision with information based on the home’s condition.

Aside from the emotional element that comes with parting from your home comes the sometimes-daunting physical stamina required to prepare for showings, inspections and appraisals. Here are a few tips to create a winning first impression, boost your bottom line and sell your home quickly.

 Select a Successful Real Estate Agent

Choosing to buy or sell a home is one of the most important financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. A realtor can help simplify the process and provide you with advice throughout. Look for an agent who has plenty of good referrals, experience in your area and price range and a plan on how they will market your home to potential buyers.

 

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Benefits of a Mortgage Over Paying Cash

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/7/14 12:22 PM

Many people are wary of the financial responsibility that comes with financing a home purchase. If you have the cash, it may seem like a no-brainer to purchase your home outright, but this article will show that the bigger the mortgage and the longer you carry it, the more beneficial. 

One of the biggest benefits of carrying a mortgage is that a home loan is most likely the cheapest money you will ever borrow. By going forward with a mortgage, you can avoid tying up cash that could be used for more profitable ventures and options in case of a financial emergency.

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How Local Schools Affect Your Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/31/14 10:34 AM

When potential home buyers are seeking a new residence, several factors influence their purchase decision and willingness to pay a higher price for a home. Aesthetic features such as updated kitchens and bathrooms, open layouts and curb appeal can boost home value, but studies are showing that a certain non-visual aspect of a home’s location influence its price significantly: the local school district.

The United States home-buying population highly values quality education. According to a Realtor.com® survey of approximately 1,000 potential home buyers, 91 percent said school boundaries were important factors in their housing search.

The Price of Higher-Ranked Education

In 2013, Redfin, an online real estate brokerage, conducted a study of over 10,000 elementary schools and 400,000 home sales across 57 metro areas to analyze the relationship between school performance and home prices.

The study concluded that, on average, buyers pay $50 more per square foot for homes in high-rated school districts than homes in average-rated school districts. The study found that homes served by different school districts with similar square footage, the same number of bedrooms and baths and location near each other can range in price from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

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Why Now is the Time to Buy

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/24/14 3:50 PM

Interpretation of 2012 and 2013 United States home sales data signal the housing market is strengthening and recovering exponentially and creating a beneficial period for potential homebuyers to get off the fence.

Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities rose in December 2012 by the most since 2006. Sales of existing homes increased slightly in December 2013, helping to lift sales for the year to the highest amount in seven years, according to the National Association of Realtors©.

So why is now the time to buy? Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun, believes the market lost momentum towards the end of 2013 due to limited job growth and low inventory. Yun predicts sales growth in 2014 will slow from last year’s 8.8 percent rise and eventually return to normalcy.

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The New Qualified Mortgage/Ability-to-Repay Rule

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/10/14 3:20 PM

When applying for a mortgage, determining how big of a monthly payment you can afford can sometimes be a complicated situation. In the past, this has led to the problems the big banks are now facing with faulty mortgages and pay backs. In order to rectify some of these problems, new laws are going into effect that will better protect the consumer, as well as the lenders, to make sure that the buyers receiving a mortgage are actually qualified for their loan.

Starting today, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires lenders to take more consumer financial information into account when making mortgage loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Ability-to-Repay rule protects buyers by making sure they can afford to repay the loan.

Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, a lender must verify your ability to repay using proper documentation. The proof of the following types of information will be required from buyers for all loans:

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Winter Home Buying

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/3/14 9:32 AM

If you’re thinking of making a home purchase, you may believe that the best time to do so is in the spring and summer seasons. When the temperatures drop and you’re recovering from the bustle of the holiday season, the last thing on your mind may be house hunting. But braving the cold and making a winter purchase can have several advantages.

Fewer Buyers in the Market

Because moving in the summer is more desirable than the winter months and families with school-age children are on a September to June cycle, less buyers flood the winter market. Fewer buyers mean less competition and less likelihood of multiple offers on a seller’s plate.

Seasonal Perspective

Though home buying in the spring and summer months allows you to view a home at its peak curb appeal, winter buying may help you determine the functionality of the home during the colder months. Did you feel cold while viewing the home? Were there any areas that felt drafty? Is there a functioning fireplace that would offset heating costs?

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Freddie Mac Home Possible®

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/20/13 8:17 AM

Freddie Mac’s goal of making homeownership affordable to a wider range of borrowers is achieved through Freddie Mac Home Possible® Mortgages. Because Home Possible® offers flexibility and options, like low down payments, this loan is a good option for first-time buyers, low to moderate income families, move-up borrowers and retirees all alike.

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HomeStyle® Renovation Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/13/13 9:34 AM

Purchasing or refinancing a home in need of repairs, maintenance and/or upgrades may seem daunting and costly. With a Fannie Mae HomeStyle® Renovation Loan, it is possible to purchase with a small down payment, follow guidelines of a conventional loan and gain more renovation flexibility than an FHA 203k Loan

The HomeStyle® Renovation Loan allows borrowers to combine a purchase or a rate/term refinance mortgage and financed funds for renovation into a single-close transaction. Funds can cover the cost of repairs, remodeling or renovations to the property.

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What is a VA Loan?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/15/13 10:57 AM

Veterans and military families make many sacrifices to keep our country safe. Veterans are still able to benefit from a loan program created almost 70 years ago to honor their service and help them achieve a large part of the American dream: homeownership.

The VA Loan was established in 1944 when the GI Bill was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The program was built to help servicemen who had missed an opportunity to build credit and a financial reserve while away at war.

The VA’s mission to level the playing field in the housing market for veterans is still at the heart of the program today. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the 2012 fiscal year, the VA backed approximately 540,000 loans, averaging $220,000 per transaction and amounting to more than $119 billion nationwide.

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What is an Appraisal?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/4/13 12:04 PM

Overview

An appraisal is a professional opinion of a property's value by an independent, licensed appraiser. Whether you are buying a home, refinancing a mortgage, settling a legal issue, appealing property taxes or just need to know the current value of a property, the appraisal will provide a home's true property value. An appraisal will determine the market value of your home and give you a solid backing on which you can make the most of your real estate investment.

Online Estimate, CMA or Appraisal

Don't confuse an online estimate or comparative market analysis (CMA) with an appraisal. Online computer generated valuation providers offer an estimate of the value of a property. The accuracy is limited to the basic comparable data available that may be incomplete or incorrect; also, the program cannot physically inspect a property to verify the condition. Real estate agents use CMAs to help home sellers determine a realistic asking price. Experienced agents often come very close to an appraiser's opinion of value with a CMA, but an appraiser's report is much more detailed and is the only valuation report a bank or attorney will consider when securing a loan or settling an estate.

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Which Mortgage Is Right For Me?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/18/13 10:37 AM

As with any home-buying decision, determining what your current situation is and what you hope your future plans will bring are essential to making the correct choice regarding your mortgage program. Initially you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do I see myself in five years? Ten years?
  • How long do I plan to live in this house?
  • Do I have to or want to make home improvements? Do I have the reserves to do so?
  • Can I take financial risks?
  • How soon do I want to be debt-free?

Your financial situation, the state of the economy and your disposition to financial risk influence the correct choice for you.

There are two main options when it comes to your mortgage type – fixed and adjustable. Fixed-rate means that your interest rate will remain the same through the term of your loan, whereas the interest of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) fluctuates periodically to reflect market conditions. A fixed-rate mortgage may be right for you if:

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How Much of My Income Should I Spend on My Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/11/13 10:06 AM

If you’re like most people, a house is the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime. Spending too much on a home could interfere with other financial goals, such as retirement and college savings. It is best to determine what you want and can pay on a mortgage before you start looking.

To qualify for a home loan, lenders will look at your front-end ratio and back-end ratio. Your front-end ratio determines how much you will be spending on principal, interest, taxes and insurance in comparison to your gross monthly income. Generally, a lender will want your front-end ratio to be below 28 percent of your gross monthly income.

Back-end ratio not only considers your principal, interest, taxes and insurance but the debt you owe, such as student loans, credit card debt and automobile loans. Ideally, this ratio should not surpass 36 percent of your monthly gross income.

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Can I Apply for Credit When Getting a Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/3/13 11:52 AM

You’ve made the decision to purchase a home, completed the loan commitment process with your lender and are preparing for closing day. While waiting to take ownership of your new home, perhaps you figure it’s time to purchase a new family vehicle, buy all new furniture or open up a line of credit at a home improvement store for all the upcoming items you’ll be needing as a new homeowner. But is it a good idea to apply for financing when getting a mortgage?

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Pre-Approval vs. Loan Commitment

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/27/13 10:33 AM

At some point in your home shopping process you will be asked if you have been “pre-approved”, a commonly misunderstood home financing term. Knowing the difference between a pre-approval and loan commitment will help you avoid surprises when you are in the process of applying for a mortgage loan.

In order to be approved for a loan, a lender must verify various aspects of your finances and of the home you are purchasing. Typically lenders begin this process with a pre-approval.

To get a pre-approval the lender will run your credit score and compile a loan application with the information you provide regarding income, employment history, assets, etc. The lender will analyze this information and issue a decision on whether or not you are eligible for a loan. If you are qualified for a loan, the lender will issue you a pre-approval that states your qualification subject to verification of certain items, such as income and assets.

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Should I Buy or Rent?

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/20/13 9:56 AM

Ultimately the answer to this question depends on multiple factors: your financial situation, your plans for the future and your desired lifestyle. Homeownership and renting both have their share of benefits, but it is necessary to consider both before making your decision.

First, let’s weigh the benefits of buying. Homeownership has long been a part of the American dream. Your purchase becomes your place to call “home”, your respite, pride and a place to personalize to your heart’s desire. Homeowners also gain:

  • Tax benefits. Being able to deduct the interest on your mortgage and property taxes offsets a portion of the cost of owning your home.
  • Stability. If you signed on for a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly payment will stay the same for the life of the loan, whereas rental rates rise over time.
  • Equity. Provided you plan to stay in your home for at least four years and home prices remain stable, homeownership allows you to create equity and stability for your family.
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Is Your MLS Source Reputable?

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/13/13 8:58 AM

If you’re like the 90 percent of home-shopping consumers, you are using the Internet as your primary source for housing searches. Technology has changed how consumers shop for real estate, but is your source accurate when it comes to listing data?

First it is important to know the difference in searching tools. A multiple listing service (MLS) site is an enterprise of all real estate agents which shares complete listing data with consumers through brokerage websites. A brokerage employs local real estate agents and belongs to the MLS. A national portal operates exclusively online but only has partial access to listing data.

Compass Mortgage encourages you to check out the difference between the Home Scouting Report®, a brokerage site provided by Home Buyers Marketing II, Inc. and the other national portal sites.

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How to Choose the Right Real Estate Agent

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/6/13 12:20 PM

Choosing to buy or sell a home is one of the most important financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. Finding the correct real estate agent can save you time, effort and frustration whether you are looking to find your dream home at the right price or sell you current home quickly and for top-dollar.

When you decide that you are ready to buy or sell, choosing an agent to represent you can be overwhelming. A little legwork and questioning go a long way in finding one that is right for you.

Referrals

Ask someone you trust, and who has bought or sold recently, for a recommendation. Your friend or family member’s experience is a good indicator of how satisfied you will be with a certain agent. Referrals are also extremely influential in the success of a real estate agent. If an agent knows you have been referred by a past client, it is likely he or she will strive to give you the same quality experience.

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What to Expect When You Close Your Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/30/13 2:05 PM

You’ve signed the purchase agreement and been approved for the loan, but you still have no rights to the property until the day you get to legally transfer ownership: closing day.

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What Credit Score is Needed for a Mortgage?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/23/13 9:28 AM

When it comes to pre-approval, your credit score is one of the most influential factors determining your eligibility for a loan and what rate you will qualify for. Lenders use your credit score as a risk assessment for approval.

Your score is calculated by a combination of scores from the three national credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Lenders use your median score of the three, known as a FICO score. FICO scores can range from 300 to 850.

Scores above 740 are considered “top tier” credit and will get you the lowest interest rates. Because your score reflects your lending risk, the lower your score the higher your risk is. Therefore, if your score is low, it is likely you will pay a higher interest rate.

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What Goes Into a Mortgage Payment?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/16/13 9:41 AM

Understanding what goes into a mortgage payment is very simple. A monthly mortgage payment includes at least two parts: principal and interest. Principal is the amount of money you have borrowed and interest is the cost of borrowing that money.

For most homeowners, there is also a third part that is paid into an escrow account. Escrow is a financial instrument created in order to store money collected by a lender. The escrow account allows you to pay for things like homeowners insurance, property taxes, condominium and association feeds and mortgage insurance, if applicable. When your taxes and insurance are due, the lender pays them for you from the escrow account. This amount of your mortgage can increase or decrease, even with a fixed-rate mortgage. Therefore, your mortgage will include principal, interest, taxes and insurance, also known as the acronym PITI.

For example, you find a home that costs $170,000. You are able to make a down payment of 5 percent, or $8,500. The annual property taxes are $1,200 and the annual homeowners insurance is $720. Because your down payment is less than 20 percent, you will pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), as well.

With a 30-year fixed mortgage and an interest rate of 4.5 percent, your PITI with PMI is as follows:

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How Location Affects Property Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/9/13 11:24 AM

When it comes to determining property value, what are the three most important factors? Location, location, location.

A “good” location can be determined by dynamics as broad as the economic stability of the community or as specific as to where the home is situated within a certain neighborhood.

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What is an Escrow Account?

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/2/13 12:39 PM

An escrow account is a financial instrument created in order to store money collected by a lender to pay for property taxes and hazard insurance when they become due by a third party. A lender will usually require monthly escrow payments to ensure that they have enough funds to pay for taxes and insurance. Since an escrow account is often used in the sale of a home, lenders will require these payments to guarantee that their collateral is secure.

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How to Calculate Property Taxes

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/26/13 3:01 PM

Property taxes can drastically change your monthly mortgage payment depending on where you decide to buy your home. They also can be very confusing for a lot of homeowners. To understand how much property tax you should be paying you need to understand how your property is valued and how the taxes are actually calculated.

The government collects real estate taxes, also known as property taxes, to fund multiple municipal operations, schools, public services and roads. The way that property taxes are calculated would be through the use of the mill levy and the assessed property value.

The first thing you will want to do is get your home's assessed value. You can either call or visit you county tax assessor's office or get the information from their website. Next you will need the taxable percentage of assessed value. As an example, let's say your assessed value is $200,000 and that 30 percent of assessed value is taxable. Multiply the taxable percentage by

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Today's First Time Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/13/11 2:53 PM

Meet the new first-time buyer. They’re younger, more likely to be single, signing for smaller loans than their predecessors, putting more money down, getting fixed-rate mortgages, and planning to stay in their houses longer. What they saw during the housing collapse has turned them into a cohort of financially conservative buyers who could help prevent another cycle of bubble and burst.

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Energy Effecient Mortgage Programs

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/22/11 11:36 AM

These days, people are doing everything they can to keep our world beautiful. Conserving energy and water are great ways to preserve the Earth and save you money on your monthly bills. You could begin this process today with your home. The FHA's Energy Efficient Mortgage program (EEM) helps homebuyers or homeowners save money on utility bills by enabling them to finance the cost of adding energy efficiency features to new or existing housing as part of their FHA insured home purchase or refinancing mortgage.

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